Carlos the Jackal receives another life prison term

A French court sentenced flamboyant Marxist militant Carlos the Jackal to another life prison term on Thursday for bomb attacks that killed 11 people nearly three decades ago.

The Venezuelan defendant (62), whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has been locked up in France for almost 20 years serving a life sentence in a separate case for killing two police officers and an informant in Paris in 1975.

Jailed assassin Carlos the Jackal is standing trial again, this time for deadly bomb attacks during the 1980s. Once he was the world’s most wanted terrorist, but now he apparently spends most of his time in prison writing love poems to his wife.

Sentencing Ramirez to an additional life term, the special terrorism court in Paris made up of seven magistrates said he should serve a minimum of 18 years in jail.

The verdict could push back the date on which he can apply for conditional release, currently set for 2012.

Defence lawyers called the decision a scandal and said their client would file an appeal.

Ramirez was accused of masterminding four separate attacks in France on two trains, a train station and a Paris street that killed 11 people and wounded nearly 200.

Prosecutors said the bombings were his answer to the police seizure of two of his gang, including his lover, and had argued that he remained a danger to the public.

Earlier on Thursday, Ramirez — once one of the most wanted international criminals — addressed the court in a five-hour monologue, alternately rambling, vitriolic and poignant, calling himself a “living martyr” in defending his innocence.

Ramirez, a self-dubbed “elite gunman”, appeared resigned to a guilty verdict. Death in prison, he said at one point, “is the role of a revolutionary”.

“I am in prison … condemned in a pre-decided case,” he told the court, his voice rising in volume.

Shades of Guevara
Ramirez, a colourful figure recognisable at the height of his fame by his Che Guevara-style beret, sunglasses and Havana cigars, sealed his notoriety in a bloody hostage-taking of Opec oil ministers in 1975.

During the Cold War he received backing from Soviet bloc and Middle Eastern countries, staging attacks throughout Europe for more than two decades before being captured in Sudan in 1994.

During the six-week trial, Ramirez appeared more like a master of ceremonies than a defendant, talking over speakers, interrupting judges, correcting lawyers and occasionally beaming benevolently from his caged-in defendant’s box.

He denied any specific involvement in the four bombings in 1982 and 1983 on a Paris street, two trains and a Marseille train station that wounded nearly 200 people and left 11 dead. Prosecutors say the bombings were Ramirez’s answer to the police seizure of two of his gang, including his lover.

“There is nothing … to connect me with these four attacks,” he told the court, making a zero sign with his thumb and index finger.

Like a modern-day Scheherazade, Ramirez wove story after story, often smiling and waxing nostalgic about former comrades, and sometimes turning fiery to rail at the system.

His unrelenting discourse touched on a variety of topics, from prison life to Zionist strategy, Soviet passports, the French state, hashish and even the death penalty.

Ramirez broke down, his powerful voice wavering when, at the end of his speech, he read from what he said was the last will of fallen Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

“I will continue the fight,” he read from the text, before breaking off, overcome with emotion. A group of about a dozen youths in the courtroom audience raised their fists in the air, shouting encouragement at Ramirez.

“Salam Alaikum,” or “Peace be with you,” said Ramirez, who converted to Islam while in prison, before giving a final fist in the air to the crowd.

Man of combat
Accused of being a gun-for-hire by his opponents, and a cold-blooded killer by a former cohort turned witness against him, Ramirez introduced himself on the first day of the trial as “a revolutionary by profession”.

Casting himself as a convenient scapegoat, he questioned why no one had ever been arrested in France for the attacks. He and his lawyers said the evidence in the case was based on unreliable witnesses and photocopies of documents from Eastern European secret service archives.

Clearly enjoying the limelight, Ramirez displayed a fondness for name-dropping, variously citing a cast of historical and modern-day heads of state from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Soviet leader Stalin to former French president Jacques Chirac, mentioning the latter’s guilty verdict given in the same courthouse earlier in the day.

He explained to the court the proper way to load a 9-millimeter pistol, correcting a prosecutor’s knowledge of how many bullets such a gun holds.

“You really aren’t a man of combat,” he told him.

Prosecutors had argued Ramirez remains a public danger and demanded he be sentenced to an additional life term and serve a minimum of 18 years. — Reuters

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Alexandria Sage
Alexandria Sage works from San Francisco, CA. Reuters journalist covering cars and tech in San Francisco Alexandria Sage has over 894 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Argentinian revenge fantasy a hit at Cannes film festival

Director Damian Szifron's film "Relatos Salvajes" drew hoots and applause from critics in contrast to the tepid reaction to the Saint Laurent biopic.

Paris sewers to heat schools, president’s palace

The Paris sewers -- whose murky labyrinths have been reviled and romanticised through history -- are at the centre of a renewable energy experiment.

Amazon margins squeezed by costs, shares plunge investors got a wake-up call on Thursday when the world's biggest online retailer said its profit margins were sliding.

BP starts work to install new cap on gushing well

BP removed a containment cap from its stricken Gulf of Mexico oil well on Saturday in the first step toward installing a bigger cap.

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday