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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 09:54 GMT
Peru president 'will keep rebels jailed'
Abimael Guzman in custody
The Shining Path's Abimael Guzman was caught in 1992

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo has said he would rather declare a State of Emergency than allow any jailed left-wing guerrillas to be freed.

His comments come just two weeks after the Constitutional Court ruled Peru's anti-terror laws illegal - paving the way for retrials for hundreds of imprisoned rebels.

So long as I'm president, not one terrorist will be freed

President Alejandro Toledo

Mr Toledo made the announcement during talks with officials from the Inter-American Development Bank - who are in Lima to sign several loan agreements.

One of the loans will go towards Peru's flagship Camisea natural gas project.

So with the eyes of the international investor community on Peru, Mr Toledo was keen to deny suggestions that the recent decision by the Constitutional Court would mean freedom for some of the country's most notorious left-wing guerrillas.

"So long as I'm president, not one terrorist will be freed," he said.

One of the Court's rulings was that rebels tried by hooded judges on treason charges could be eligible for retrials.

The president admitted that the country now faced up to 700 such retrials.

Special powers

Victor Polay - whose left-wing Tupac Amaru movement hijacked the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Lima in 1997 - asked for a retrial last week.

Victims of Shining Path guerrillas
Thousands of people died in two decades of political violence

The founder of the Maoist Shining Path rebel group, Abimael Guzman, could also have his case heard again.

In the 20-years of civil strife precipitated by the two guerrilla movements, some 30,000 people have died and more than 7,500 have disappeared.

Mr Toledo has already asked for - and received - special powers to draw up new anti-terror legislation.

The first law, announced on Saturday, will mean life sentences can still be handed down for terrorism, with the possibility of parole after 35 years.

See also:

04 Jan 03 | Americas
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15 Jul 99 | Americas
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