Peru abruptly suspended the retrial of Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman almost as soon as it began on Friday after the guerrilla leader caused a furor in court, shouting communist slogans and defiantly raising his fists.

Judge Dante Terrel ordered a weeklong delay after Guzman, who led a brutal ?popular war? to impose communism on the Andean nation from 1980 until his capture in 1992, turned his back to the court and gestured at length to the media.

Guzman and other senior Shining Path members shouted ?Long live the Peruvian Communist Party,? ?Glory to Marxism, Leninism and Maoism? and ?Long live the heroes of the people? with their fists raised to the media.

Police quickly escorted Guzman and the other leaders out of the courtroom. Proceedings lasted a little over an hour.

Guzman, 69, who held sway over thousands of fanatical followers, was convicted of treason in 1992 by a hooded military judge at a secret trial and jailed for life.

The former philosophy professor?s Maoist movement has been blamed for more than half of almost 70,000 deaths in two decades of rebel wars and atrocities committed by the military.

Guzman?s conviction was annulled by Peru?s top court last year after the treason conviction was removed from the statute books, and civilian retrials were ordered.

Guzman now faces charges of aggravated terrorism involving a high school academy where prosecutors say teachers recruited rebels, raised money and were linked to Shining Path leaders.

They say Shining Path propaganda, explosives and bullets were found at the school.

SEEKING LIFE SENTENCE

Prosecutors in the trial, one of several that Guzman faces, are seeking a life sentence. That would mean he would be able to apply for his freedom in 2027, when he would be 92.

Seventeen other Shining Path members were on trial, including Guzman?s longtime lover and the group?s No. 2, Elena Iparraguirre, and Oscar Ramirez, dubbed ?Feliciano,? who has broken with Guzman and calls him a psychopath. He did not chant slogans in court. Two accused are being tried in absentia.

Benedicto Jimenez, one of the anti-terrorist police officers who captured Guzman, said the court appearance was a political victory for Shining Path.

?This will have an effect on the group?s followers,? he told Reuters.

Peruvians last saw Guzman as a wild-haired revolutionary wearing a striped prison suit when he was paraded before the media in a cage after his sensational capture.

Guzman, who called himself ?Presidente Gonzalo,? has confessed to being head of Shining Path, but denies being a terrorist.

?They are accused of terrorism. They are not terrorists,? Guzman?s lawyer, Manuel Fajardo, told reporters. ?They want to criminalize as terrorism what was an internal war.?

Legal experts say there is no chance of Guzman being freed. The rebels ?know they will lose? in court but would try to avoid a life sentence, Jimenez said.

Shining Path experts believe Guzman is aiming to lay new foundations for a return to armed conflict in the future.

A few hundred rebel die-hards remain at large and Washington still considers Shining Path a terror group.

Get alerts on Terrorism when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article