, KHARTOUM, Mar 6 – Senior Sudanese officials joined some 3,000 mourners on Sunday at the funeral of veteran Islamist leader Hassan Turabi, an ally turned outspoken critic of the regime.
Police were out in force as Turabi’s shrouded body was laid to rest in the Burri cemetery in the east of the capital.
Mourners from his Popular Congress Party, many of them wearing traditional robes and turbans, paraded banners bearing his photograph and paying tribute to his life.
First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh was among several members of the government who attended the ceremony but President Omar al-Bashir was absent after flying out to Jakarta for an Islamic summit that opens on Monday.
Bashir visited Turabi’s family on Saturday evening to offer his condolences on the 84-year-old’s death from a heart attack earlier in the day.
The two men were once close allies. Turabi was a leading force behind the 1989 coup that brought Bashir to power, ushering in an Islamist regime that hosted Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1992 to 1996.
A power struggle between them saw Turabi dismissed from the ruling National Congress Party leadership a decade after the coup. He later formed his own party.
Turabi was the only Sudanese politician to support a warrant issued for Bashir’s arrest by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the regime’s conduct of the conflict in Darfur.
He was detained several times over a career spanning four decades, including in January 2009 two days after urging Bashir to give himself up to the ICC.
An ideologue with influence beyond Sudan’s borders, Turabi was one of the driving forces behind the introduction of Islamic sharia law in Sudan in 1983, which sparked a devastating 22-year civil war with the mainly Christian south that cost an estimated two million lives and led to its secession.