Abimael Guzman, shown in 2004, founded and led the Shining Path insurgency during the 1980s and early 1990s in which up to 70,000 people died or disappeared. ((Martin Mejia/Associated Press))

The founder of Peru's Shining Path militant group was sentenced to life in prison on Friday on charges of aggravated terrorism.

Abimael Guzman, 71, led a 12-year insurgency throughout the 1980s and early 1990s in which up to 70,000 people died or disappeared.

Guzman's longtime lover and second-in-command Elena Iparraguirre, 59, also received a life sentence. Ten other defendants drew sentences ranging from 24 to 35 years.

Guzman's lawyer said he plans to appeal the verdict and sentence.

The verdicts were read amid tight security with police in bulletproof vests stationed in the courtroom, which was closed to the public. Journalists had to watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television.

At its peak, the Shining Path had an estimated 10,000 armed fighters. The group wanted to replace the government with aMaoist peasant-centred regime.

In a 1988 interview with the militant group's newspaper, Guzman gloated about a massacre in 1983 in which 69 peasants —including nearly two dozen children— were shot and hacked to death in the Andean village of Lucanamarca in retaliation for the killing of several militants by villagers.

The former philosophy professor, known to his followers as President Gonzalo, was captured in a Lima safe house in September 1992.

A secret military tribunal sentenced him to life in prison, but Peru's top court ruled three years ago that the trial was unconstitutional.

A civilian trial in 2004 ended in chaos after Guzman and his supporters chanted communist slogans before television cameras and two of the three judges quit, citing conflicts of interest.

"I am a revolutionary combatant and totally reject being a terrorist," Guzman declared as his third trial got underway last year.

The Shining Path bombed electrical towers, bridges and factories, assassinated mayors and massacred villagers.

With files from the Associated Press