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Peru Rebel Chief Loses Last Appeal of Life Term


LIMA, Peru — Abimael Guzman, patriarch of the ruthless Sendero Luminoso revolutionary movement, lost his last chance Wednesday to overturn a life sentence for "treason against the fatherland."

In rejecting his second and final appeal, Peru's Supreme Council of Military Justice sealed Guzman's transformation from a mastermind of terror to a prisoner without prospects. He is to be confined for life to a cell on a navy base off the coast of Lima.

Anti-terrorist police captured Guzman, 57, and some of his key aides Sept. 12 in a carefully prepared raid on a guerrilla safehouse in Lima. After a short and secret trial at the navy base where Guzman is imprisoned, a military judge convicted and sentenced him Oct. 7.

An official announcement of the sentence called the Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, a "genocidal group"--referring to 12 years of bloody warfare that has included terrorist bombings and massacres of peasants by the Maoist guerrillas.

"Abimael Guzman has converted his followers into beings without conscience, capable of indiscriminate killing," the announcement said.

Alfredo Crespo, Guzman's lawyer, said severe limitations on defense rights and other irregularities in the trial made the sentence "illegal. The defense has been merely decorative."

Wednesday's announcement that Guzman's sentence was confirmed said his right to legal defense had been observed.

Crespo argued his final appeal on Guzman's behalf Sunday, and the military justice council issued its unanimous decision Wednesday evening. The members of the council remained anonymous for security reasons.

The council also confirmed life sentences for two other accused leaders of Sendero Luminoso.

The two, Elena Iparraguirre and Zenon Walter Vargas, were tried along with Guzman at the naval base on San Lorenzo Island. Iparraguirre was reported to be Sendero's No. 2 leader and Guzman's companion.

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