Peru Shining Path head gets life

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6048144.stm

Oct 14, 2006

The founder of Peru's Shining Path Maoist guerrillas has been found guilty of terrorism at a retrial and been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Former philosophy professor Abimael Guzman led a 12-year rebellion in which around 70,000 people died.

Abimael Guzman was tried after his capture in 1992 by a secret military court, but the verdict and life sentence were thrown out in 2003.

Guzman's partner Elena Iparraguirre was also found guilty and given life.

The verdicts took several hours to read, and Guzman stood motionless with his arms folded as the court gave its judgement.

Ten other co-defendants were given sentences of between 24 and 35 years.

'Machetes'

The Shining Path, a Maoist guerrilla group, waged a violent campaign to overthrow the Peruvian state.

In 2003, a truth and reconciliation commission blamed more than 31,000 killings on the guerrillas.

Survivors from a Shining Path massacre in the Andean village of Lucanamarca, where 69 peasants were shot and hacked to death as a reprisal, gathered outside the court to demand maximum sentences for the defendants.

"They killed them with machetes, stones, axes - and for those who did not die in agony in this way, they even put them into a vat of boiling water," Ignacio Tacas, a 35-year-old farmer from the village, told the Associated Press news agency.

The Shining Path founder said the massacre had been a response to "reactionary military action".

The insurgency provoked a state backlash by the government of former president Alberto Fujimori which was blamed for tens of thousands more deaths.

Fujimori is currently in exile in Chile facing extradition to Peru, where prosecutors have been pursuing him on charges relating to corruption in office and human rights violation during the Shining Path crackdown.

Communist slogans

Guzman's first trial, by a secret military court, was ruled unfair by Peru's constitutional court in 2003.

His first re-trial in 2004 ended in chaos after he shouted communist slogans in his defence in front of live television cameras.

To avoid a repeat performance, tape recorders and cameras were banned from the courtroom for this trial.

However, television stations were allowed to use footage from the court's closed-circuit television cameras to broadcast Guzman's sentence live on Friday.

The year-long hearing was held at the high-security naval base where Guzman has been held since 1993.

At the start of the trial, Guzman had described himself as a "revolutionary combatant" and not a terrorist.

His lawyer Manuel Fajardo had argued his client should be granted an amnesty because of violations against his right to due process.

He told the Associated Press that the verdict had been based not "strictly on the law, but rather on politics", and said that the deaths had been an inevitable result of the war between the Shining Path and the Peruvian government.

Mr Fajardo said they would be appealing against the verdict.

A few hundred Shining Path rebels are still operative in the country's south and south-east, but a BBC correspondent in Lima says they now pose little threat.