Desi Bouterse found guilty by military court over abduction and murder of 15 government critics in wake of coup
A court in Suriname has convicted the countrys president, Desi Bouterse, of murder for the execution of 15 opponents in 1982 following a coup. The man who has dominated the former Dutch colonys 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.
Bouterse was expected to return to Suriname on Saturday or Sunday, skipping a planned trip to Cuba, the vice-president of his National Democratic party told the local newspaper De Ware Tijd. Ramon Abrahams told the paper he was in phone contact with Bouterse and called an emergency meeting of the party.
Bouterse led the South American country through the 1980s as head of a military government, then assumed office again in 2010 and secured re-election five years later.
The court ruled that Bouterse had overseen an operation in which soldiers under his command abducted 16 leading government critics including lawyers, journalists and university teachers and killed 15 of them at a colonial fortress in the capital, Paramaribo. One trade union leader survived and later gave evidence against Bouterse.
Bouterse has steadfastly denied the charges and is able to appeal against the decision.
The Surinamese government said it had taken note of the developments and calls on the community to keep the peace.
The court on Friday also convicted six other former military officers, including the countrys current consul to neighbouring French Guiana, of murder for their part in the episode.
In a joint statement, the diplomatic missions of the Netherlands, United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Germany and France to Suriname said it was critical the verdicts be implemented and upheld in accordance with the rule of law.