Suriname President Desi Bouterse has been sentenced to 20 years in prison by military court over the killing of political opponents.
Naija News understands that Bouterse, 74, was accused of killing his opponents when he was the South American country’s dictator in the 1980s.
The president was on a state visit to China when the judgement was delivered.
Bouterse’s lawyer, Irvin Kanhai, has however vowed to appeal the ruling when the president returns next week
A two-time coup leader, two-term president and convicted drugs-trafficker, Bouterse has dominated Suriname’s politics since taking power in a 1980 military coup.
The judgement which was delivered by a three-msn court-martial led by Judge Cynthia Valstein-Montor, relates to the executions of 15 regime opponents in December 1982.
It was reported that the regime rounded up and executed 13 civilians and two military officers in what is now knowed as the “December Killings”.
Bouterse has always denied involvement, saying the victims had been held for plotting a counter-coup with the help of the CIA, and had been shot while trying to escape.
His evidence, presented by his lawyers, contradicted several witnesses who said he was present during the executions at Fort Zeelandia, the colonial fortress in the capital Paramaribo.
Bouterse seized power as a 34-year-old sergeant major.
AFP reports that, 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.
In 2010, his election as president protected him from an Interpol arrest warrant issued after a Dutch court sentenced him to 11 years in prison for cocaine trafficking.
Dutch-speaking Suriname’s people have roots in Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
It gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975.