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Suriname lawmakers propose amnesty bill to end president's trial

Lawmakers in Suriname [official website, in Dutch] on Wednesday proposed a bill that would amend the country's current amnesty law and extend amnesty to alleged offenses committed in defense of the state. The proposed amendment would effectively end the trial of President Desi Bouterse [official profile, in Dutch] who is accused of capturing and killing opponents of his regime during the "December Murders" at Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo in 1982. The proposed measure would allow amnesty based on defense of state [AP report] for the period between April 1, 1980, and August 19, 1992, a period when Bouterse ruled the country as a military dictator and the region was engaged in civil war. Bouterse seized control of Suriname during a military coup in 1980, five years after the country achieved independence from the Netherlands. He stepped down in 1987 in the face of international pressure and briefly seized power in 1991. Bouterse was elected President of Suriname [Reuters report] in a parliamentary vote in 2010. Bouterse, who faces up to 20 years in prison, has staunchly denied his involvement.

Bouterse's trial has been ongoing since 2008. In April 2008, a military tribunal in Suriname ruled [JURIST report] that all suspects involved in a 1982 massacre must stand trial, including Bouterse. Bouterse's trial began [JURIST report] in July 2008 with former bodyguard Onno Flohr testifying that Bouterse was present at the killings of 15 political opponents, including lawyers, journalists, professors, military officers and businessmen, accused of plotting against the government and that he other members of the firing squad were ordered to fire under the threat of death. In 2009, the trial of the former dictator resumed [JURIST report] with testimony by a former prison warden that he brought a leader of a 1982 military coup to an army barracks for execution.

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