Peruvian Rebel's Trial Suspended
Prosecutor, Judge Trade Accusations
CALLAO NAVAL BASE, Peru, Nov. 12 -- Peru's retrial of Shining Path rebel leader Abimael Guzman turned into a farcical mud-slinging Friday as one judge quit the case and the prosecutor called on the two other justices to resign.
The trial -- which puts one of the world's most brutal rebel leaders back in the limelight after 12 years behind bars -- began in chaos a week ago when Guzman and co-defendants hijacked the hearing by chanting communist slogans and punching the air in clenched fist victory salutes.
Prosecutor Edgar Chirinos asked court president Dante Terrel to resign because of his failure to restore order and for allowing the rebels to score a propaganda coup.
Friday, the proceedings stalled again even before the charges were read out against Guzman, 69, who led a fanatical "popular war" to impose communism in the Andes and has been officially blamed for more than half of the 69,280 deaths in Peru's rebel wars with the state in the 1980s and 1990s.
Carlos Manrique, one of the two other trial judges, announced that he would quit the case because he had taken part in other rebel trials, which could put his impartiality in question.
Chirinos called for the third judge, Jose de Vinatea, to go as well, saying he had also been involved in one of those rebel cases.
Chirinos said that last week's "shameful" events had rattled faith in the judiciary. He said that "for the sake of decorum" the court president should quit.
But Terrel, visibly angry, his voice at times rising to a shout, dug in his heels.
"I swore by God to defend the law. . . . A judge must carry out his duties at all cost. They have trampled my honor, my dignity," Terrel shot back.
President Alejandro Toledo last week also called on Terrel to resign for permitting the chaotic scenes in a trial that is putting Peru's strained justice system to the test and reopening old wounds.
The high-profile case -- centering on an academy Shining Path allegedly used to raise funds -- is the first retrial for Guzman since his 1992 treason conviction was overturned. Peru's Constitutional Court ruled that the secret military court that originally tried Guzman was illegal. He now faces charges of aggravated terrorism and prosecutors want a life sentence.
Unlike last week, the defendants were on best behavior. Police seated them in groups, with none of the top leaders sitting next to each other, and Guzman remained impassive.
The trial was suspended until Monday.
Guzman, a former philosophy professor who saw himself as an heir to Marx, Lenin and Mao, has admitted to leading Shining Path, but denies being a terrorist.
Shining Path now counts only a few hundred die-hards but Washington still considers it a terror group.