Suriname President Desi Bouterse said Monday he will seek re-election in the South American country despite being convicted of murder for the execution of political opponents.
“Of course, with big bold letters. You will not be able to miss the name,” Bouterse told a radio program when asked if he would appear on the list of candidates for the May 2020 elections.
Bouterse, 74, returned on Sunday from a state visit to China and will appeal Friday’s judgement, according to his lawyer Irvin Kanhai.
A three-judge court convicted Bouterse over the executions of 15 regime opponents in December 1982 when he was the country’s military ruler.
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 so-called “December killings,” in which the regime rounded up and executed 13 civilians and two military officers, have long clouded Bouterse’s rule.
The president said he would address a meeting of his National Democratic Party (NDP) on Friday where a team of legal experts would explain the verdict to lawmakers.
On the radio program — hosted by the government spokesman — Bouterse thanked party supporters who turned out at the airport to greet him on his return from China on Sunday.
“People are playing a political game with me and the supporters came to power me, to support me,” he said.
He also snubbed calls from lawmakers for his resignation after being convicted Friday over the executions when he was the country’s dictator in the 1980s.
Bouterse’s five-year term ends August 12. There is no constitutional impediment to an incumbent running for another term.
At a press conference Sunday, Bouterse dismissed the conviction as a “flip flop political game”.
“It’s a political process. They are trying to prove that I am guilty. When you have done it, I can imagine that it will affect you. I have other things on my mind.”
Vice President Ashwin Adhin told a ruling party meeting on Friday that the president’s murder conviction will never have legal force. “We have enough resources to act within the rule of law” to challenge it, he said.
He did not rule out seeking a pardon for the president once all legal appeals had been exhausted.
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.