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Friday, 20 April, 2001, 07:23 GMT 08:23 UK
Peru rebels stage hunger strike
Abimael Guzman, 1992
Abimael Guzman is serving a life sentence at a naval jail
Peru's Government says it will not bow to pressure from imprisoned guerrillas, including Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman, who have gone on hunger strike to demand retrials.

Prison officials said Guzman, who is serving a life sentence, begun fasting on Monday, while rebels at three other jails joined in on Wednesday.

Former President Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori virtually wiped out Peru's rebel groups
Rebels from Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) are demanding new civilian and prisoner rights.

The authorities have stepped up security measures at prisons across Peru, rejecting "any type of pressure or blackmail" from the inmates.

But a prisoner who identified himself as "Hugo" called AFP news agency to say hundreds more would join the hunger strike in solidarity with Guzman.

There are some 2,800 imprisoned rebels in Peru, most of them captured during disgraced former President Alberto Fujimori's 10-year rule.

'Unfair trial'

Many of them were tried by hooded judges in military courts.

Guzman, who is only taking liquids, says he did not receive a fair trial when he was sentenced to life in 1992 for treason and terrorism.

He launched a nine-day hunger strike in January, ending it after Peru's ombudsman said his demands would be presented to interim President Valentin Paniagua.

MRTA rebels during the 1996 siege of the Japanese embassy
The MRTA is best-known for the Japanese embassy siege
On Thursday, the ombudsman, Walter Alban, urged the inmates to maintain the peace.

Mr Alban said prison conditions for those convicted of terrorism had been improved to respect inmates' human rights.

Under Guzman's leadership, the Maoist Shining Path movement began its campaign to install a communist state in 1980.

The MRTA is best known for the 126-day siege of the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima in 1996.

The guerrilla conflict left some 30,000 dead and caused more than $25bn in damage.

Both rebel groups were mostly destroyed under Mr Fujimori's rule, and have only been blamed for sporadic attacks in the past few years.

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See also:

29 Mar 01 | Americas
Peru reopens death squad inquiry
14 Mar 01 | Americas
Peru experts examine exhumed rebels
15 Jul 99 | Americas
Peru's Shining Path - who are they?
08 Feb 00 | Americas
'Two dead' in Peru prison siege
15 Jul 99 | Americas
Peruvian rebel leader captured
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