İrem UZUN -TDO- A court in Suriname has convicted the country’s president, Desi Bouterse, of murder for the execution of 15 opponents in 1982 following a coup. The man who has dominated the former Dutch colony’s recent history was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Opposition parties called for the resignation of Bouterse, who was in China on an official visit when the sentence was handed down on Friday.
After playing an active role in a 1980 coup d'etat against Prime Minister Henck Arron, Bouterse was promoted to head of the army and made de facto leader of Suriname until 1987.He stepped down under international pressure in 1987, then briefly seized power again in 1990. He was then elected president in a parliamentary vote in 2010 and secured re-election five years later. The party has repeatedly tried to halt this trial and six people accused of being involved have already died since it began 12 years ago. In 2012, the National Assembly passed an amnesty law granting Bouterse immunity, which was later invalidated by a court ruling. The court decision marks a turning point in a trial that began in 2007, when Bouterse accepted "political responsibility'' for the killings but insisted he was not present.
However, it is not the first time Bouterse and his family are convicted. In 2009, a Dutch court sentenced Bouterse to 11 years in prison in absentia for drug trafficking. However, his 2010 election victory protected him from being extradited under an Interpol warrant. In 2015, his son, Dino Bouterse, was sentenced to more than 16 years in prison in the United States after being convicted of drug smuggling and trying to help Hezbollah establish a base in Suriname.