KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan freed a former spy chief on Wednesday after clearing him of charges that he was involved in an alleged coup attempt against veteran President Omar Hassan al-Bashir last year.

The Sudanese government announced last November it had arrested former intelligence chief Salah Gosh and 12 army and security officers after foiling a coup attempt. Officials have provided few details about the alleged coup.

"The prosecutor dropped the charges for lack of evidence against me. Some people also helped by mediating for me," Gosh told Reuters during a welcome reception at his palatial home, adding that he was grateful to Bashir for releasing him.

Gosh never stood trial over the charges and he was set free on the first day of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Bashir has already pardoned six security officers and nine army officers implicated in the alleged coup attempt, days after courts handed out jail terms to them.

Bashir has ruled Sudan for 23 years, weathering rebellions, years of U.S. trade sanctions, an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and the loss of most of the country's oil with South Sudan's 2011 secession.

But the alleged plot attempt amplified a debate about Bashir's future and about who might one day replace him.

High food prices in Sudan caused by the loss of oil - and with it the source of foreign currency used to import food - has stoked some protests against Bashir since the South seceded in July 2011.

Some Islamists inside the army and the ruling National Congress Party have also complained that Bashir and other senior leaders have abandoned the Muslim values of the 1989 coup and have concentrated decision-making in the hands of a few people.

But Sudan has avoided the turmoil and mass protests which have unseated rulers in other North African countries such as Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Gareth Jones)




TOWNHALL MEDIA GROUP