Latin America & Caribbean

Shining Path leader Comrade Artemio charged in Peru

Comrade Artemio on 23 February 2012
Image caption Artemio was taken to a maximum security prison to await trial

The leader of the Shining Path rebel group in Peru has been charged with terrorism and drug trafficking.

The man, known as Comrade Artemio, was captured two weeks ago after a clash with troops in a remote jungle region.

If found guilty, Artemio could face life in prison.

The Shining Path, a Maoist rebel group, posed a major challenge to the Peruvian state in the 1980s and early 90s but has since dwindled to a small group involved in drug trafficking.

Comrade Artemio, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, has been transferred to a maximum security prison while awaiting trial, expected to start in four months' time.

Bloody conflict

Prosecutor Marco Guzman said more than 200 people would be called to give evidence at the trial.

Artemio was found badly wounded on 12 February. He has been treated for bullet wounds to his hands and chest at a police hospital.

Last December, Artemio admitted to reporters that the Shining Path had been defeated, and said the remaining rebels were ready to negotiate with the government.

An estimated 70,000 Peruvians died in the conflict between the Shining Path and government forces.

Inspired by Maoism, the rebels tried to lead a "People's War" to overthrow what they called "bourgeois democracy" and establish a Communist state.

But the movement lost force after the capture of its founder and leader Abimael Guzman in 1992.

The remnants of the Shining Path have fought on in the Alto Huallaga and Ene-Apurimac valleys - two remote jungle regions dominated by the cocaine trade.

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