Tue, Sep 27, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Peru's nightmare continues with Shining Path trial

PERU , LIMA

This nation was to confront a frightening chapter of its history yesterday when it once again attempted to retry imprisoned Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman, who last year caused a mistrial with communist-inspired courtroom antics.

Guzman's lawyer says the man who for 12 years spearheaded a bloody, ongoing rebellion against the government "is aware" he will receive the same life sentence meted out in 1992 by a secret military justice system that was later deemed unconstitutional by Peru's highest court.

"He would like the trial to end quickly," attorney Manuel Fajardo told a group of foreign correspondents. "Abimael Guzman, in particular, doesn't like to waste time."

But Lima Bar Association President Marcos Ibazeta, a former anti-terrorism judge, said Guzman's impatience should not be mistaken for that of a condemned man resigned to his fate.

Ibazeta said Guzman knows Peru will never release him, but that his goal is to discredit the judicial system for an appeal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights aimed at freeing hundreds of imprisoned guerrillas for violating their due process rights.

"It's not resignation," Ibazeta said. "Like all leaders he is assuming responsibility so ... he continues to be a symbol."

The Shining Path's growing threat started to fade after Guzman's capture, and in the last four years Peru has stood out in South America as a beacon of relative political stability and sustained economic growth.

But rebel factions continue to operate in Peru's coca-growing jungle region, where several hundred guerrillas provide protection for cocaine traffickers.

President Alejandro Toledo's Cabinet Chief Pedro Pablo Kuczynski warned last week about a Shining Path "resurgence," that the president was quick to deny.

Peru's Constitutional Tribunal ruled in 2003 that the draconian secret military courts established by former President Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s were unconstitutional, and civilian prosecutors brought new charges against Guzman and other convicted rebels.

The trial will be held in the same maximum security naval base where the 70-year-old former philosophy professor has been imprisoned since April 1993, and will reunite him with 11 of his top commanders, including his longtime jail mate, lover and second-in-command, Elena Iparraguirre.

Guzman was put into solitary confinement last November and Iparraguirre was abruptly transferred to another prison as part of a crackdown that Toledo ordered days after their first retrial degenerated into chaos.

With fists raised, Guzman and Iparraguirre led four of their co-defendants in chants of "Long live Peru's Communist Party! Glory to the party of Leninism, Maoism!" while television cameras rolled. The trial collapsed days later when two of the three presiding judges stepped down under pressure, citing a conflict of interest.

"We are not going to give in to terrorists. We won't send them gifts of birthday cakes or organize boat rides or romantic dinners," Toledo said at the time, referring to perks used by Fujimori's ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos to woo Guzman and Iparraguirre into calling for peace talks in 1993.

Guzman and Iparraguirre had reportedly been allowed to live as a couple, with her bringing him breakfast in bed, and them sharing much of their time together outside their cells.

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