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Suriname parliament to debate amnesty for president
by Staff Writers
Caracas (AFP) March 23, 2012

Suriname's parliament on Friday will debate an amnesty proposal for President Desi Bouterse, who along with his military associates is accused of executing political opponents in 1982.

The legislative proposal would bring an end to end the slow-moving trial of Bouterse and other military leaders, which began five years ago.

The debate comes as a witness prepared to testify that Bouterse was present on December 8, 1982 at the military barracks of Fort Zeelandia, the colonial fortress in the capital Paramaribo, where the alleged killings occurred.

The executions of 13 civilians and two military officials are blamed on Bouterse, who was elected president by parliament in 2010 but led a ruling military junta from 1980-1987, during the South American country's civil war.

The bill would provide amnesty for Bouterse and his loyalists for all crimes committed between April 1, 1980 and August 19, 1992.

It would also offer amnesty for the former military personnel who led a coup in 1980 that propelled Bouterse to power.

Bouterse faces the possibility of 20 years in prison if he is convicted.

The bill requires a simple majority for approval, according to Chan Santokhi, a lawmaker and former minister of justice.

Supporters of the proposed legislation say the amnesty is necessary to promote social stability and development.

Bouterse's government is supported by a coalition of parties that holds 36 of 51 seats in parliament.

On Thursday, three local human rights organizations and relatives of Bouterse's political opponents executed in 1982 sent a letter to the National Assembly asking that the amnesty law be rejected.

They were joined by former president Ronald Venetiaan.

"This is a direct involvement in the trial," Venetiaan said. "People have committed acts, let them bear the consequences now."

Bouterse's party meanwhile urged supporters to attend a pro-amnesty rally on Friday in Independence Square, in front of parliament.

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