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20 years sought for former Suriname strongman Bouterse

#years #sought #Suriname #strongman #Bouterse

Prosecutors in Suriname on Tuesday asked a court to uphold a 20-year-sentence against former strongman Desi Bouterse over the deaths of 15 political prisoners in 1982.

Bouterse, 77, had already been sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2019, but he is challenging that verdict and under Surinamese law cannot be arrested before he exhausts the appeals processes.

On Tuesday, Attorney General Carmen Rasam formally asked the High Court of Justice to uphold the guilty verdict and the 20-year sentence.

Bouterse first took power in a 1980 coup and in December 1982 allegedly rounded up 15 political opponents — including lawyers, journalists and businessmen — for execution at the Fort Zeelandia military barracks in the capital Paramaribo.

Bouterse has always denied the allegations. Last week, he admitted in court that he heard gunshots on the day the prisoners were killed, but insisted he did not order their execution.

Bouterse said he believed the gunshots were part of an effort to intimidate the inmates, who, he claims were trying to overthrow him, but not to kill them, and that he wasn’t present during the execution.

Bouterse accused his number two Paul Bhagwandas, who died in 1996, of being responsible for the Fort Zeelandia violence. 

Bouterse’s defense will present its final arguments on March 31 and the court is expected to rule in the second half of 2023.

Bouterse stepped down in 1987 under international pressure, but returned to power in 1990 in a second, bloodless coup. He left office a year later but was then elected president in 2010 and remained in the post until 2020.

In 1999, a court in the Netherlands, Suriname’s former colonial ruler, sentenced Bouterse to 11 years in prison in absentia for cocaine smuggling, another charge he denies.

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