Supporters of ousted Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir held a protest Saturday vowing to oppose any move by the country’s new authorities to hand him over to the International Criminal Court.
Dozens of his supporters, carrying Bashir’s portrait, gathered outside the Khartoum court where he is being tried on charges of illegally acquiring and using foreign funds.
“We are with you. We will never betray you. No, no to ICC,” chanted the crowd as the former president was brought to the courthouse for a hearing.
The demonstration comes amid growing calls from human rights groups, activists and victims of Sudan’s Darfur war for the surrender of Bashir to The Hague-based court.
“President Bashir represents the whole of Sudan. We have an independent judiciary and if any trials are to be held, they must be held here,” said protester Mohamed Ali Daklai.
“We reject any outside or foreign tribunal. ICC is anyway a political court used by Western countries to pressure the weak.”
Bashir was ousted by the army on April 11 following nationwide protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades.
The military generals who initially seized power after the president’s fall refused to hand Bashir over to the ICC.
He is wanted by the ICC for his alleged role in the Darfur war that erupted in 2003 as ethnic African rebels took up arms against Bashir’s then Arab-dominated government, accusing it of marginalizing the region economically and politically.
Khartoum applied what rights groups say was a scorched earth policy against ethnic groups suspected of supporting the rebels — raping, killing, looting and burning villages.
The ICC has accused Bashir of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in the vast western region of Darfur. He denies the charges.
About 300,000 people were killed and 2.5 million displaced in the conflict, according to the United Nations.
Bashir, who ruled Sudan for three decades after seizing power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, is being held in a Khartoum prison and facing trial on corruption charges.