Nevertheless, the trial marks a pivotal moment in the fraught democratic transition of Sudan, a large, strategic state that serves as a bridge between north and sub-Saharan Africa. By facing the law, Mr. al-Bashir joins a list of reputedly despotic leaders who have been removed from office through popular protests and who have been put on trial over their actions while in power.
If he is found guilty, he faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Mr. al-Bashir’s lawyers have argued that it is common for leaders to hold foreign currency. While Mr. al-Bashir has admitted to investigators that he received $90 million from Saudi royals, the current trial is about $25 million of those funds which he received from the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
For many years, Mr. al-Bashir seemed untouchable. A guilty ruling in the corruption case would “break this spell of immunity that has been pervasive” under Mr. al-Bashir and his ruling National Congress Party, said Jonas Horner, a Sudan expert with the International Crisis Group, a research organization.
“I think people will be pleased and happy on the whole in Sudan if indeed a guilty verdict is delivered,” Mr. Horner said.
Following a career in the military, Mr. al-Bashir rose to power in a bloodless putsch in 1989. During his reign, Sudan was plagued by armed conflict and multiple economic shocks. Mr. al-Bashir gave refuge to Osama bin Laden years before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and the United States listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.
But last December, protests triggered by the high price of bread, a symptom of an acute economic crisis, erupted in the northeastern city of Atbara, quickly spreading to major cities including Omdurman and the capital, Khartoum.
To subdue the uprising, authorities temporarily shut down the internet, arrested opposition figures and critical journalists, and used tear gas to disperse growing crowds that chanted, “The people want the fall of the regime.”