Suriname president trying to reverse his Dutch drug conviction

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Friday September 28, 2012 – Recent allegations that President Desi Bouterse is involved in illegal drugs are fabrications to frustrate his efforts to quash a damning drug conviction, says his lawyer Inez Weski.

Weski, a criminal lawyer from Rotterdam, has reported that her request for reconsideration of Bouterse’s 1999 drug conviction is almost ready to be presented to the highest Court of Appeals in The Netherlands.

The Dutch litigator told journalists last week that it seems it is her pending appeal that may have prompted the latest allegations against Bouterse.

 “I cannot shake the impression that the arbitrary explanation given to a fragment of a conversation in which Bouterse may have been mentioned, is being used to incriminate my client. All of this just as I am in the advanced stage of proving how unfounded the 1999 sentence is,” she said.

Dutch police recently reported that the word “Bouta”, the soubriquet by which Bouterse is known, was heard in a taped phone conversation of cocaine smuggler Piet Wortel.

Wortel, who is also represented by Weski, was arrested a few months ago in Barcelona for involvement in large cocaine shipments. He apparently said that “Bouta” would see to it that a drug plane, which had crashed in Suriname’s hinterland carrying 400 kilograms of coke, would be safe; all the president wanted in return was 200 kilograms of the coke.

“It’s all circumstantial,” Weski said. “(Releasing the tapes) is judicially a far-reaching and reckless action. Nowhere in the taped conversations is there any mention of cocaine or drugs. It’s all loose fragments, pieces of conversation glued together and interference that lasted for several minutes. The fragments do not show any relationship between the people who are mentioned and the subject. But still that didn’t withhold the investigators to give a criminal explanation to what they heard.”

According to Weski, the entire investigation against Wortel is based on “randomness and imbalance”. Information received is not investigated but still seems enough reason to use investigative methods like listening into conversations at someone’s home for years.

“They didn’t even check if people who they say form a drug cartel with Wortel actually know each other, but they rather went ahead and constructed their own versions from rumours and unfounded pieces of text, as they always do,” she said.

Meanwhile, police in Suriname have said that there are no reports of an aircraft crashing in the interior.

“The Netherlands is again trying to blacken Mr. Bouterse’s and Suriname’s reputations with a smear campaign, because they just cannot accept that Suriname is making economic advancement without their help,” Suriname’s Foreign Minister Winston Lackin said.

Bouterse was an army sergeant when he led a coup against the government in February 1980, and his military rule lasted until 1987. Apart from being held responsible for the murder of 15 of his political opponents in December 1982, he is also widely suspected of involvement in large drug shipments.

His 1999 sentence was the result of the largest-ever Dutch drug investigation, the Colombia/Paramaribo (CoPa) operation that had been running since 1989 in an effort to expose the South America-Netherlands drug trade.

Detectives reported that Bouterse, while in charge of the Suriname army in the eighties, stimulated and facilitated cocaine production in laboratories in the hinterland and transhipments to The Netherlands. While none of the detectives visited Suriname during the investigations, they concluded that Bouterse’s prosecution would be “desirable and feasible”.

The court in The Hague initiated proceedings in March 1999 and in July that year Bouterse received, in absentia, an 11-year sentence. He appealed, but the Appellate Court confirmed the sentence in October 2001.

He has always insisted on his innocence, saying the sentence was politically motivated by The Netherlands with whom his relationship had deteriorated over the years.

When Bouterse was elected President in May 2010, The Netherlands immediately froze its development aid and said that even as president, Bouterse would only be welcome to visit if he came to serve his jail term.

The situation deteriorated further when Suriname’s National Assembly passed an Amnesty Bill last April that would pardon Bouterse and fellow suspects for the murders of the 15 political opponents in 1982. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)