The Miami Herald
Tue, Nov. 16, 2004

Trial of Shining Path rebel chief collapses

CALLAO, Peru - (AP) -- The first public trial of Shining Path rebel leader Abimael Guzmán fell apart on Monday as the second of the three judges presiding over the case stepped down, citing a conflict of interest.

The development means three new judges must be named and a new trial set for Guzmán, 69, who masterminded a fanatical struggle to impose his vision of a Maoist, peasant workers state, on Peru until his 1992 capture.

In the case being tried Monday, Guzmán and 17 other defendants, including two still at large, were charged with using a preparatory school for aspiring college students to help finance the insurgency. Guzmán faces numerous trials for planning peasant massacres and political assassinations.

The case was annulled after Judge Josá de Vinatea recused himself, saying he had represented terrorism suspects in court previously. Another judge, Carlos Manrique, stepped down on Friday after saying he had participated in other rebel trials and that his partiality might be questioned.

Last week, prosecutors had insisted that the lead judge, Dante Terrel, step down since he had also represented terrorism suspects in the past, but he refused.

Guzmán, a former philosophy professor, launched his insurgency in 1980. He was captured in 1992 and sentenced by a secret tribunal to life in prison without parole.

Last year, Peru's Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the secret military courts created by former President Alberto Fujimori in the 1990s were unconstitutional, and prosecutors brought new charges in civilian court against Guzmán and other rebels.

A truth commission last year blamed the Shining Path for 54 percent of the nearly 70,000 deaths and disappearances caused by rebel violence and a brutal state backlash.