CALLAO, Peru -- The founder of Peru's Maoist Shining Path insurgency raised a defiant fist and proclaimed "glory to Marxism" in court yesterday as the government retried him on terrorism charges more than a decade after he was sentenced to life in prison.
The proceedings against Abimael Guzman were quickly suspended as his 15 codefendants joined him, standing up and chanting revolutionary slogans. Cameras were then quickly cleared from the courtroom.
The life sentence against Guzman was overturned last year by Peru's Constitutional Tribunal, which declared that the secret military court that convicted him was unconstitutional. Prosecutors filed new charges against Guzman and other convicted rebels in civilian court.
Guzman, 69, mastermind of a bloody insurgency initiated in 1980 by a movement that envisioned a classless utopia, was captured in 1992 and sentenced by a secret military tribunal to life in prison without parole. A truth commission last year blamed the Shining Path for more than half of the nearly 70,000 deaths from the guerrilla conflict and the brutal state backlash.
Experts on Peru's Shining Path insurgency are concerned that the government is not fully prepared to retry Guzman, known to his followers as "Presidente Gonzalo," in a civilian court and warn that missteps could lay the legal basis for freeing hundreds of former high-level guerrillas.
Guzman is accused of having used a prep school for aspiring college students to help finance his insurgency. Prosecutors, who are seeking a life sentence, say they are beginning with this charge because they are still preparing cases involving peasant massacres and assassinations.
Manuel Fajardo, Guzman's lawyer, said before the trial started that he and Guzman would refuse to speak during the hearing to protest its illegality.
"We question the unconstitutional antiterrorism legislation. We question the existence of a special tribunal. We question the draconian penalties," Fajardo said.
Courtroom images broadcast by Canal N television showed a gray-haired Guzman, who turned to reporters, smiled, and thrust his fist into the air before taking his seat with 16 codefendants.
Yesterday's hearing started with each codefendant standing to address the court, with most saying their lawyers needed more time to prepare. When Guzman's turn came, he whispered on one side to Elena Iparraguirre, his lover and top guerrilla aide, and then on the other with a codefendant. The defendants then stood, turned, and chanted: "Long live Peru's Communist Party! Glory to the party of Leninism, Maoism! Glory to Marxism!" The judges then ended the proceedings.