KHARTOUM, Sudan (AFP) – A special court in Sudan on Thursday jailed seven members of the powerful state security service for up to eight years over a coup attempt last year, the service said.
Their conviction follows the sentencing earlier this month of several army officers, who were jailed for the same plot but then walked free under a presidential amnesty.
The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) said in a statement that three security colonels and four lower-ranked security officers were sentenced to prison for various terms ranging between two and eight years.
They had “participated in the plot” last November, the statement said.
Analysts say the case reflects a political struggle within the 24-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir, who himself took power in a coup.
Officials have never revealed more than vague details about the plot which analysts said was linked to hardcore Islamist officers who had once firmly backed the regime.
Until Thursday it remained unclear how many NISS officers had been detained.
The guilty officers have been expelled from the security service.
“They have a right to appeal or ask for amnesty within 15 days,” the statement said.
Salah Gosh, who headed the NISS until 2009, was also detained in connection with the plot but has not been tried.
His family says he has filed a case with Sudan’s Constitutional Court, alleging he has been illegally held in custody.
A military court on April 7 issued prison sentences ranging from two to five years for army officers convicted of “attempting to undermine the constitutional and security system”, threatening national unity and harming the armed forces.
The army originally said 11 military men were convicted but one of their defence lawyers gave the total as nine.
Seven of them including their leader, Brigadier Mohammed Ibrahim, walked out of prison last week under an amnesty from Bashir.
Ibrahim played a role in the 1989 coup that brought to power Bashir’s government, which describes itself as Islamist.
“We are seeking reform”, Ibrahim said after his release.
Most of the detainees are close to a vocal group of veterans of the 1983-2005 civil war with now-independent South Sudan, and an elite group of volunteer mujahedeen fighters among them called Al-Saihun or “tourists for the sake of God”.
Along with a youth movement within the ruling National Congress Party, the war veterans have called for new national leadership and a return to Islamic values because they said the government is tainted by corruption.
A regional political expert, who asked for anonymity, said earlier that Bashir is “very scared of a bad relationship with Saihun” which could further threaten the regime.
Sudan has been through at least seven coups or attempted coups in its 57 years of independence.
There has been some easing of tension since early March when Sudan and South Sudan began to normalise relations after months of intermittent border clashes.
Bashir then announced he would free all political prisoners as the government seeks a broad political dialogue, “including (with) those who are armed”.