Shining Path - Act III

10 October 2005 by Lucien O. Chauvin

Abimael Guzmán, the famous leader of Peru's Maoist Shining Path group, began facing judges September 26 in his third trial. Guzmán and 23 of his followers who were allegedly members of the outlawed party's Central Committee are being tried by a special anti-terrorism court presided by Judge Pablo Talavera and two other magistrates. There are, however, only 12 defendants in the courtroom. The others are being tried in absentia.

The defendants are charged with five separate crimes: leading Shining Path, planning terrorist attacks, using a local school as a façade to recruit new members and raise funds, publishing a weekly newspaper, El Diario, to foster terrorism, and perpetrating a massacre in 1983 that left 69 people dead. Prosecutor Luz Ibáñez has requested life sentences for Guzmán, 70, and his closest followers and 25 years for the other defendants. She has also demanded that they pay 20 billion USD in civil reparations. Most of the defendants were arrested and convicted in 1992. According to the 2003 final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated political violence committed in Peru between 1980 and 2000, Shining Path was responsible for the disappearance and death of 54 percent of the nearly 70,000 victims of these dark years. According to the government, Guzmán was the head of "a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy the Peruvian state by any means."

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