A Venezuelan-born revolutionary dubbed “Carlos the Jackal” is standing trial in Paris for his role in terrorist attacks in France during the early 1980s.
The 62-year-old, whose real name is Illich Ramirez Sanchez, is accused of attacks on two trains, a train station and Arab newspaper bureau in 1982 and 1983. The bombings killed 11 people and injured more than 100.
“He’s in a fighting mood as always,” said his lawyer and wife, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, just before the trial. A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ramirez was at one time one of the world’s most wanted fugitives. He was finally caught in Sudan in 1994 and extradited to France.
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In 1997 Ramirez was convicted for killing two French secret agents and an informant in 1975, and has since been serving a life sentence. He has also been linked to other bombings as well as a 1975 hostage situation involving OPEC oil ministers in Vienna and subsequent death of three people. He became known as “Carlos the Jackal” as a reference to the main character and assassin in the novel “The Day of the Jackal.”
Coutant-Peyre said the French government is putting Ramirez on trial for “propaganda or some other interests rather than the ones of justice,” and said there was no reason to bring him back to court.
Dressed in a navy jacket and jeans, Ramirez remained in good spirits, smiling and raising his fist in the air. “I am a professional revolutionary,” he responded when asked his profession. Last month Ramirez protested being put in solitary confinement with a nine-day hunger strike after giving a phone call to a French radio station. His lawyers are claiming he was denied access to information to prepare for the trial, the Telegraph reports.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he’s watching the trial carefully to ensure Ramirez’s rights are protected, the Washington Post reports. ”We cannot allow any Venezuelan, accused of anything, to be abused in any part of the world,” Chavez said to reporters. The leftist president said he has a personal interest in the case, and called Ramirez “a dignified bearer of the biggest struggles.”
The trial will proceed for six weeks before a panel of seven judges.