Sudanese authorities on Saturday charged one of the country's most prominent opposition leaders with offenses against the state. Hassan al-Turabi is to be tried before a state security court.

It's the second time in three years that Hassan al-Turabi has been detained by the Sudanese government, but it's the first time he's been charged with a criminal act, in this case incitement to sedition, sabotage hatred of the state and undermining the government.

Mr. al-Turabi, who heads Sudan's Islamist Popular Congress, was among some 30 people arrested earlier this week, including opposition party members and military officers suspected of targeting an oil refinery and a power-generating station in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

He was charged in connection with the coup plot after a high-ranking military official, interrogated by authorities, allegedly divulged details of a plan to assassinate leading government ministers. Defense Minister Bakri Hassan Salih said the group was only a few days away from carrying out its plot.

The Popular Congress denies involvement in a coup plot.

The arrests and alleged coup plot comes as Sudan tries to hammer out a peace deal with the country's main rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, which controls much of the southern region.

The on-again-off-again peace negotiations now under way in Naivasha, Kenya, are bogged down in disagreements over a plan to share the country's vast oil wealth. The peace talks are also being overshadowed by the continuing violence in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Al-Turabi, an Islamic fundamentalist, was once a close ally of Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who seized power in 1989. But since then has become one of the harshest critics of al-Bashir's rule.

He is also a frequent critic of the United States, describing it as the incarnation of the devil.