December 7, 2013
Carlos the Jackal back in court over 1980s bombs
The international revolutionary from Venezuela, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, built a career as one of the world's best known guerrillas after a hostage-taking of OPEC oil ministers in the name of the Palestinian struggle in 1975.
Since his capture and sentencing nearly two decades ago, the Jackal has been resident of a French prison.
On Monday, Ramirez, already condemned to life in jail, will face a three-judge terrorism panel to answer charges he was behind four urban bombings in France that killed 11 people and wounded nearly 200 in the early 1980s.
"I am really in a combative mood," Ramirez, 62, told Europe 1 radio last month. "I'm not fearful by nature...My character is suited to this kind of combat."
The Marxist with a Che Guevara beret became the face of 1970s and 80s anti-imperialism, his taste for women and alcohol adding to his revolutionary mystique.
"He was the symbol of international leftist terrorism," said Francois-Bernard Huyghe, a terrorism expert at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations, IRIS, in Paris. "One day it could be in the service of the Palestinian cause, the next day he could put bombs in French trains. He was a kind of star."
Ramirez's got his nickname after a reporter saw a copy of Frederick Forsyth's "The Day of the Jackal" at his flat and mistakenly assumed it to be his. Prosecutors say the bombs that ripped through trains, stations and parked cars in 1982 and 1983 were Ramirez's riposte to the police seizure of two of his gang, including his lover.
Ramirez's fingerprints, they say, were on a threatening letter sent to the interior minister to demand their release.But Ramirez's lawyer, Francis Vuillemin, says the letter does not exist and the trial is a sham, based on questionable evidence provided by state secret service agencies.
If found guilty, Ramirez could receive a maximum penalty of life in prison. He would have to serve at least 22 years.
The son of a Marxist attorney, Ramirez studied in Moscow and soon joined a radical group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
With Soviet bloc protectors in short supply by the end of the Cold War, life got more difficult for Ramirez, who hopped from place to place seeking jobs.
By 1994, when he was captured in Khartoum by French agents and brought back to France – an episode Ramirez refers to as his "kidnapping".
Ramirez converted to Islam in 1975 and his time in prison is spent studying philosophy and reading the news. He particularly supports the European protesters who have taken to the streets to protest against austerity measures and corporate wrongdoing.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez once called his countryman a "revolutionary fighter."