[JURIST] The military trial of former Suriname dictator Desi Bouterse [backgrounder] for the “December Murders” at Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo in 1982 commenced Friday 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, who were accused of plotting against the government and that he other members of the firing squad were ordered to fire under the threat of death. Eleonore Geer-Brakke, Bouterse's ex-secretary, also testified that Bouterse was at Fort Zeelandia on the day of the killings. Bouterse has been charged [JURIST report] along with 24 others in connection with the deaths. The former dictator has staunchly denied his involvement, insisting that he was not present at the military compound at the time of the shootings. Bouterse faces up to 20 years in prison.
Bouterse seized control of northeastern South American state of Suriname [JURIST news archive] 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. He is now the leader of the county’s primary opposition party, the National Democratic Party [official website, in Dutch], which is preparing for the 2010 presidential elections. AFP has more.