Carlos the Jackal was yesterday put on trial in France for a second time, for a series of deadly attacks that were carried out almost three decades ago.
The 62-year-old Venezuelan, real name Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving a life sentence for a triple murder committed in 1975. On Monday, he appeared before a special Paris court on terrorism-linked charges. The trial is expected to last six weeks, after which Ramirez may be handed his second life sentence. French law does not carry the death penalty.
The latest charges are tied to four attacks in 1982 and 1983 that eventually killed 11 people and injured 140 others in France. Ramirez has vigorously denied any role in the attacks.
In Paris on Monday, Ramirez identified himself as a “a professional revolutionary,” and sporadically raised his fist in defiance. His speech was peppered with Anti-Zionist rhetoric, and he smiled and looked confident throughout.
Before the trial began, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, Ramirez’s lawyer and amorous partner, told reporters outside the courtroom: “He’s in a fighting mood as always.” She added there was “no reason” for the trial to take place nearly thirty years after the events, and suggested French prosecutors were indulging in “propaganda or some other interests rather than the ones of justice.”
Coutant-Peyre’s assertion was disputed by Francis Szpiner, lawyer for some civil parties to the case, who argued the trial was vital in showing that the actions of terrorists will never go unpunished. Szpiner said the trial would contribute to “the end of the culture of impunity [for terrorists].”
Of the four bombings Ramirez is alleged to have carried out, two were against French trains, another at a Paris office of an Arabic-language newspaper, and a fourth at a French cultural center in what was then West Berlin. It is alleged two of the attacks were an attempt to pressure the French government to free his girlfriend Magdalena Kopp (who he would later marry and have a daughter with) and comrade Bruno Breguet.
Ramirez inspired fear in many western European cities for many years in the 1970s and 1980s. From 1973, he carried out eight attacks over two years. His causes varied from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to some far-left European terror groups.
However, as the Cold War dissipated in 1989, safe havens for the Venezuelan became more scarce, and he was eventually swiped by French agents from his refuge in Khartoum, Sudan in 1994, and brought back to Paris in a sack.
In Venezuela this week, President Hugo Chavez called Ramirez a “revolutionary fighter,” and insisted that Ramirez’s rights be respected during his trial in France:
“We cannot allow any Venezuelan, accused of anything, to be abused in any part of the world. We have a responsibility and we are obliged to uphold it.”
The trial continues.