By Andrew Heavens
KHARTOUM, Jan 12 (Reuters) - A Sudanese opposition leader on Monday called on Sudan's president to hand himself over to the International Criminal Court, saying he should take responsibility for war crimes in Darfur.
The call from Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi was the first significant show of dissent from inside Sudan's political system since the chief prosecutor of the global court asked judges to issue an arrest warrant against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir in July, accusing him of genocide and other war crimes.
Turabi told reporters Bashir should surrender himself to save Sudan from sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if the president defied the court and carried on ruling as a wanted man.
"There is no judicial justice in this country ... As far as we are concerned there is no access to justice except through the international court," Turabi said in the Khartoum headquarters of his opposition Popular Congress Party.
"It is up to the government to hand him over or for him personally to go for the sake of his country, to protect his country against any further sanctions against the government," he added.
Turabi, who was once close to Osama bin Laden, has been a central figure in Sudanese politics for decades and has been repeatedly detained and imprisoned.
He was the spiritual mentor behind Bashir's Islamist government when it took power in a 1989 coup, but the men later fell out.
Most Sudanese opposition parties publicly rallied round Bashir after the ICC's chief prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, accused the president of orchestrating genocide and other war crimes in Darfur. The ICC's judges are widely expected to issue a ruling on whether to issue an arrest warrant in coming weeks.
Bashir and leading members of his dominant National Congress Party have repeatedly said they will not deal with the global court, dismissing it part of a Western conspiracy.
Even Turabi's party initially suggested a Sudanese version of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be a better way of bringing justice to Darfur.
But Turabi said on Monday Bashir should take personal responsibility for atrocities and war crimes carried out in almost six years of fighting in Sudan's west.
"Politically we think he is culpable. He is responsible for all the crimes. In politics, whatever happens below a minister, for example, he will have to resign for it and assume responsibility.
"And he should assume responsibility for whatever is happening in Darfur -- displacement, the burning of all the villages, systematic rapes."
Turabi said he could not comment on whether Bashir had personally orchestrated war crimes in Darfur -- just that the president should take political responsibility for atrocities carried out under his leadership.
The influential opposition leader added he did not expect Bashir to take his advice.
"Probably the government will not hand him over ... He will not surrender himself to save his country or to go and prove he is not guilty."
International experts say 200,000 have died and 2.5 million been forced from their homes since mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against Sudan's government in 2003, accusing Khartoum of neglect.
Sudan's government, which mobilised mostly Arab militias to crush the revolt, denies activists' accusations that genocide took place during the counter-insurgency. (Editing by Giles Elgood)