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Sudanese 'war crimes spy' jailed

File pic of Sudan's humanitarian affairs minister Ahmed Haroun
Ahmed Haroun - Sudan's humanitarian minister - is wanted by the ICC

A Sudanese man has been jailed for 17 years for passing on sensitive files about a Darfur war crimes suspect to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Mohammed Alsary Ibrahim was convicted of spying, criminal conspiracy and passing on confidential military documents about a Sudanese minister.

Mr Ibrahim, who denied the charges, is the first person in Sudan to be prosecuted for helping the ICC.

Tension is high, as ICC judges decide whether to indict Sudan's president.

The ICC prosecutor has accused President Omar al-Bashir of responsibility for war crimes in Darfur, prompting angry responses from his government.

Mr Ibrahim was accused of trying to link Ahmed Haroun - Sudan's state minister for humanitarian affairs - with the Janjaweed militia, which is accused of widespread atrocities in Darfur.

'Harsh'

The trial in Khartoum last month heard that Mr Ibrahim had been caught in a sting operation receiving secret documents from a Sudanese police contact.

A security officer told the court Mr Ibrahim had planned to pass the files to a Sudanese-American contact for money so they could be handed to the global court.

File pic of Sudanese Janjaweed fighter
Members of the Janjaweed are accused of atrocities in Darfur

Mr Ibrahim, who has two weeks to appeal, remained silent as the verdict was read out but his three sisters burst into tears, AFP news agency reports.

Judge Abdel Wahab Ismael said the sentence was harsh but that the spying charge could have carried the death penalty, according to Reuters news agency.

In 2007, the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Ahmed Haroun on 51 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Sudan's western Darfur region in 2003 and 2004.

Among the charges, which he denies, were the alleged murder and rape of civilians in Darfur while he served as minister of state for the interior.

Sudan has always refused to hand him over.

The ICC is deciding whether also to indict President Bashir on 10 counts of genocide and other charges in Darfur, after prosecutors asked for an arrest warrant in July 2008.

Sudan argues that such a move would only make things worse in Darfur.

After intense Sudanese lobbying, the African Union and Arab League have called for a one-year suspension of the legal process.

The UN estimates that up to 2.7 million people have been forced from their homes in Darfur and some 300,000 have died during nearly six years of conflict.

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