The trial of 'Carlos the jackal' has started in Paris. With France focused on the threat of jihadist attacks, the trial goes back to a time when Europe was targeted by groups sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
The political terrorist known as 'Carlos the Jackal' was once the world's most-wanted fugitive. The Venezuelan-born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez has been imprisoned in France since his arrest in Sudan in 1994 and is serving two life sentences for his part in a series of bomb attacks that killed 11 people in 1982-83. Starting Monday, he is in court over a 1974 grenade attack on the Drugstore Publicis, a busy shop located in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in the heart of Paris.
The case took so long to go to trial because it was first dismissed for lack of evidence before being reopened when Carlos was arrested and imprisoned in France. His lawyers introduced challenges at every stage of the proceedings.
Carlos's lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, said the trial is a waste of time and money. "What exactly is the point of having a trial so long after the events?" she said. Carlos denies the charges, which include "murders carried out with a terrorist organization."
The case will be heard by a special court made up of professional judges and with no jurors, as is the custom with terrorism trials in France.
Carlos describes himself as a "professional revolutionary" and was dubbed "Carlos the Jackal" by the press based on the nickname of a fictional terrorist in the 1971 Frederick Forsyth novel, "The Day of the Jackal."
The Arab language French news magazine "Al-Watan Al-Arabi" published an interview in 1979 in which Carlos is said to have admitted throwing the grenade into the shop. He denies he gave the interview.
In the interview, Carlos allegedly said he had attacked the Drugstore Publicis to put pressure on authorities to release a Japanese activist arrested in France two months earlier. The attack was part of the Palestinian liberation struggle, he said.
Carlos later became the military chief of the Peoples' Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in Europe, claiming the "operational and political responsibility" for all the operations of the group on the continent and also for "all the wounded and all the dead," according to court documents.
"I am a hero of the Palestinian resistance, and I am the only survivor of (the group's) professional executives in Europe because I used to shoot first," he told investigators.
During one interrogation, Carlos allegedly told investigators that "in 1974 it was obviously an attack. A grenade was thrown." He added: "I don't think the person who did this wanted to hurt the poor people who were present."
jbh/rt (dpa, AFP, AP)