Carlos The Jackal On Trial For 1980s Bombings


(RFE/RL) — The Venezuelan leftist militant known as Carlos the Jackal has gone on trial in Paris over a series of deadly terrorist attacks that hit France almost 30 years ago.

Carlos, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving a life sentence in France.

The 62-year-old Marxist-Leninist radical, whose links to high-profile operations helped to make him the face of international terrorism during the 1970s and 1980s, was captured by French special forces in Sudan in 1994.

In 1997, a French court sentenced him to life imprisonment for the 1975 murders of two French intelligence agents and a Lebanese informer.

The new charges relate to four bombings in France in 1982 and 1983 in which 11 people were killed and more than 100 others injured.

The attacks targeted trains and the Paris office of an Arabic-language newspaper (“Al-Watan Al-Arabi”).

They were claimed by the “International Terrorist Friends of Carlos” and the “Organization of Armed Arab Struggle.”

‘A Professional Revolutionary’

Three suspected associates of Carlos — two Germans and a Palestinian (Christa-Margot Froehlich, Johannes Weinrich, and “Ali” Kamal al-Issawi) — are being tried in absentia for their alleged role in the attacks.

Prosecutors allege Carlos carried out the bombings in order to pressure the French authorities to release two of his accomplices, including his future wife Magdalena Kopp.

Carlos, who denies any role in the attacks, identified himself to the antiterrorism court today as “a professional revolutionary.”

Outside the courtroom, Francis Szpiner, the lawyer for some civil parties to the case, told reporters that the trial was important to show that terrorists will always be pursued.

“What is important for the victims is that it is the end of the culture of impunity,” he said. “For a very long time, people thought that they were above the law and that reason of state protected them. The Berlin Wall has come down and part of international terrorism that found help and assistance in the East have found themselves deprived of this.”

“And what we’re seeing today is something interesting in the world: there is no more refuge for assassins.”

Jackal ‘In A Combative Mood’

But defense lawyers — including Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who Carlos married in prison in an Islamic ceremony 10 years ago — say the trial is a sham, claiming that Carlos was denied access to materials needed to prepare for it.

If found guilty, he could face another life sentence in prison.

Carlos went on a hunger strike on October 18-27 to protest being banished to solitary confinement after he gave a telephone interview to the French radio station Europe 1.

In the interview, he said he was “in a combative mood” as he prepared for the trial, and again maintained that his kidnapping from Sudan was illegal.

He also admitted he had one regret – the sacrifice of his family life.

“I couldn’t raise my children — only the youngest until the age of five or six. And this is a regret, although it is the price to pay. I was a husband who was absent most of the time.”

​​Carlos was born in Venezuela and studied in Moscow before joining the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

In 1975, he rose to prominence when his group took 11 ministers of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) hostage. The group left with hostages on a plane provided by Austrian authorities and was eventually given asylum in Algiers.

A Suspect In High-Profile Bombings, Hijackings

He is also the chief suspect in the Palestinian hijacking of a French airline to Uganda in 1976, which ended with an Israeli commando raid.

Carlos is also suspected of involvement in the bombing of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Munich in 1981 in which five people were injured. At the time, Carlos was living in Hungary.

Communist secret police archives opened after 1989 indicated that the bombing was ordered by Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu.

After the attacks in France, Carlos moved to Syria where he was allowed to stay until the 1991 Gulf War.

He then sought refuge in Sudan where he was finally captured with the help of the Sudanese government.

A convert to Islam since his imprisonment, Carlos preached “revolutionary Islam,” which is the title of a book he wrote, in which he also praised the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Ahead of the expected six-week trial in Paris, Carlos boasted in an interview with a Venezuelan newspaper (“El Nacional”) that more than 100 attacks in which up to 2,000 lives were claimed had been carried out under his “coordination.”


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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