President Desi Bouterse, 74, of Suriname has been sentenced to 20 years in prison on Friday over the executions of political opponents when he was the South American country’s dictator in the 1980s.
Bouterse is on a state visit to China and will appeal the judgement when he returns next week, his lawyer Irvin Kanhai said.
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 was delivered by a three-member court-martialled by Judge Cynthia Valstein-Montor, relates to the executions of 15 regime opponents in December 1982.
The so-called “December killings,” in which the regime rounded up and executed 13 civilians and two military officers, have long clouded Bouterse’s rule.
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.
In her ruling, Valstein said Bouterse had played a “crucial” role in the killings, carefully preparing the ground for executions he had the power to prevent.
Military prosecutors opened the case against Bouterse and 24 other suspects in 2007, but the president and political allies several times sought to derail it in Congress.
The trial has gone on so long 12 years that six of the suspects have died.