April 17, 2013 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir issued a decree commuting the sentences of nine army officers convicted over their role in an alleged coup attempt thwarted last November.
The widely anticipated decision carried by state media on Wednesday stated that the officers, who were sentenced to jail sentences of up to five years by a military tribunal this month, are to be released immediately.
Bashir’s order further declared that the officers’ punishment of being expelled from the army is to be changed to a discharge which theoretically means that they could return to military service.
The president’s order referenced a recommendation by the defense minister and a plea from the convicts themselves in making this decision.
Last week the Sudanese army spokesperson Colonel al-Sawarmi Khalid Sa’ad made an announcement declaring that the convicts made a formal appeal to president Bashir to issue a pardon and have them freed from prison.
But Col. Sa’ad’s revelation was met with wide skepticism among observers who assert that the officers confessed to their role in the coup attempt making it implausible that they would turn around and ask for reprieve.
Brigadier-General Mohammed Abdul-Jalil Ibrahim, who spoke in a press conference at his home following his release, thanked Sudanese people who stood by him and called for his release, extending his thanks to the media and leaders of Sufi orders.
Ibrahim deflected a question by reporters on whether he made a plea to president Bashir and instead declared that he will continue to serve Sudanese people while praising Sudan Armed forces (SAF), the Islamist Sa’ihoon initiative group and families of detainees.
But people close to him told Sudan Tribune that he never made any plea to Bashir as was announced by the government.
The National Congress Party (NCP) leading figure who was recently sacked from his position as NCP’s majority leader at Sudan’s national assembly, Ghazi Salah al-Deen al-Attabani, was among those who came to congratulate Ibrahim on his release.
Al-Attabani, who was met with cheers urging him to move forward in demanding reforms and restoring unity of Islamists, said that Bashir’s decree was the right move and would contribute to the unity of the Sudanese people.
“I have a lot to say later” he said without elaborating.
Al-Attabani’s name has been also been linked to the 13 Islamist military and security officers arrested accused of plotting to overthrow the regime. This included former head of National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) Salah Gosh and Brigadier General Ibrahim who is better known as ’Wad Ibrahim’.
Wad Ibrahim in particular enjoys tremendous popularity among Islamists and in 2011 he gathered around 1,000 Islamists at his home including Al-Attabani. He is believed to be the leader of the Sa’ihoon group.
The deputy chairman of Sa’ihoon initiative group, Mohamed Daffa-allah, welcomed today’s move by Bashir, calling upon the government to release the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) members and other civilians who were detained in connection with the same coup attempt.
Daffa-allah, touted the release as a beginning for the path of reforms calling on president Bashir to undertake an immediate and comprehensive political, economic, and social reform along with stopping civil war and drafting a new constitution with the participation of all political forces.
Osama Tawfig, member of the mediation team between the government and Sa’ihoon group, revealed in a press statement that they are working on the release of the remaining detainees, including the seven NISS officers who are reportedly just being tried and the other six civilians,
The Sa’ihoon group, which means ‘God-seeking wanderers’ in Arabic, is a loose association of committed Islamists and former Popular Defense Forces (PDF) combatants.
They staged a demonstration in Khartoum on Tuesday calling for the release of all those held over the failed coup plot. Several officials rushed to the scene to calm the protestors and inform them that the release of the officers is imminent.