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Thursday, 21 November, 2002, 11:44 GMT
Retrial for Peru Shining Path rebel
Elena Iparraguirre, 1992
Iparraguirre was sentenced to life by hooded military judges
A high court in Peru has ordered a new civilian trial for a leader of the Shining Path rebel movement.

The Constitutional Tribunal ruled that the 1992 trial of Elena Iparraguirre - known as comrade Miriam - on treason charges by a military tribunal had been unconstitutional.

Abimael Guzman, 1992
Guzman founded Shining Path in the late 1960s
But Judge Delia Revoredo said the fact that Ms Iparraguirre's sentence had been annulled did not mean she would go free.

Correspondents say the ruling could open the way for a new trial for Ms Iparraguirre's partner, Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman who was captured in 1992.

Both were sentenced to life imprisonment in secret trials conducted by hooded military judges.

'Unconstitutional'

Ms Iparraguirre had argued that because she was a civilian, and not a member of the armed forces, she should have received a civilian trial.

Judge Revoredo agreed that the 1979 constitution - which was in effect at the time of Ms Iparraguirre's trial - only allowed civilians to be tried in military courts if the country was at war.

Ms Iparraguirre's life sentence violated the right to a "competent, independent and impartial trial" established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the judge added.

She said that Ms Iparraguirre's 10 years in prison would count towards any new sentence.

Crackdown

Shining Path was founded in the late 1960s by Abimael Guzman, a former university professor.

Former President Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori's crackdown prompted international criticism

In the 1980s the group launched an armed struggle against the state.

Ms Iparraguirre left her job as a schoolteacher to join the movement in 1982 - six years later she and Guzman became lovers.

By the end of the decade it was considered to be the most formidable insurgent movement in South America with an estimated membership of 10,000.

Some 30,000 people died in the nearly two-decade long conflict.

Shining Path was dealt a severe blow in 1992, when Guzman and several rebel commanders were arrested and tried in secret courts.

Over the next five years the then President, Alberto Fujimori, spearheaded a major crackdown against the movement, prompting international criticism and accusations of human rights violations.

Some 500 Shining Path guerrillas are still believed to be operating in remote mountain and jungle areas of Peru.

See also:

10 Apr 02 | Americas
21 Mar 02 | Americas
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15 Jul 99 | Americas
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