MRTA Rebel leader convicted

31 March 2006

A Peruvian court has sentenced the leader of a Marxist insurgent group to 32 years in prison, after finding him guilty of nearly 30 crimes committed in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Victor Polay Campos, former leader and co-founder of the Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru (MRTA), and four others, were charged with a range of crimes from kidnappings and hostage taking to an attack on the US embassy compound. All were given long sentences and ordered to pay £8.6m in compensation for damage and injuries caused by their campaign. Polay has been imprisoned at a naval base in El Callao, west of Lima, since 1992.

Nearly 70,000 Peruvians were killed during the violent conflict between two separate rebel movements - the MRTA and the Shining Path - and the government response, that gripped the Andean country in the 1980s and 1990s.
In events similar to those of Abimael Guzman, leader of the separate Shining Path movement, a tribunal had annulled the earlier military sentencing of Polay on constitutional grounds, leading to a civilian court retrial.

The sentencing - and the underlying assertion of a strengthened civil society and the rule of law - comes at a time of democratic renewal and confidence across South America.

Peru's southern neighbour, Argentina is currently remembering the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought the military to power in Argentina for seven years, and led to the death of a further 30,000 people. For more on Argentina

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