The founder of Peru’s Maoist Shining Path insurgency raised a defiant fist and proclaimed, “Glory to Marxism!” in court Friday as the government began his retrial on terrorism charges, a decade after he was sentenced to life in prison.
The proceedings against Abimael Guzman were quickly suspended when his 15 co-defendants joined him, standing up and chanting revolutionary slogans.
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, the mastermind of a bloody insurgency initiated in 1980 by a movement that envisioned a classless utopia, was captured in 1992 and later sentenced by a secret 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 retaliation.
Experts on the Shining Path insurgency fear that the government is not fully prepared to retry Guzman, known to his followers as “Presidente Gonzalo,” in a civilian court. They warn that missteps in this trial could lay the legal basis for freeing hundreds of former high-level guerrillas jailed during the 1990s crackdown.
In the new trial, 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 that lesser charge because they are still preparing cases involving peasant massacres and assassinations of political figures.
Manuel Fajardo, Guzman’s lawyer, said before the trial started that he and Guzman would refuse to speak during the hearing to protest what he called its illegality.
“We question the unconstitutional anti-terrorism legislation,” Fajardo said.
“We question the existence of a special tribunal. We question the draconian penalties.”