Carlos makes light of the law

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CARLOS, the international terrorist caught on Sunday after a 20-year manhunt, was charged by France's top anti-terrorism investigator yesterday in an encounter surprising for its levity.

The 44-year-old terrorist, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was escorted from La Sante prison to the Palais de Justice, Paris' main courthouse, where he was formally charged by Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the examining magistrate.

Although Carlos was taken in an armoured van, journalists from two news agencies saw him sitting under escort outside Mr Bruguiere's office. They said he seemed relaxed, with cropped greying hair, and a moustache. Looking at the rifles of the four gendarmes guarding him, he told them: 'We too had Famas (French-made assault rifles) in Lebanon. They're good.'

When Mr Bruguiere, himself once the target of a terrorist bomb, opened his office door, Carlos said: 'There's the judge. How are you?' 'And yourself?' said Mr Bruguiere, smiling. Carlos replied: 'Still alive and for some time yet.' Then he turned to his escort to comment on the magistrate: 'He's a star.'

Mr Bruguiere charged the Venezuelan with bombing the offices of the Arab periodical Al-Watan Al- Arabi on the rue Marbeuf, off the Champs-Elysees, in 1982. One person was killed and 63 injured. Altogether, Carlos is wanted for his part in the murders of 15 French nationals out of an estimated 83 people who died in his operations.

Two years ago, Carlos was sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia by a Paris court for killing two agents of the DST counter-espionage service in 1975. He will face a retrial in that case.

Officials said France would be willing to let investigators from other countries where Carlos operated to question him but virtually ruled out any question of his being extradited elsewhere for trial.

Carlos has hired Jacques Verges - the lawyer who has defended a number of terrorists as well as Klaus Barbie, the Nazi 'Butcher of Lyons', in his trial for crimes against humanity in 1987 - to represent him. Mr Verges, 69, said he knew of Carlos only as 'a legend, a myth', adding: 'It's not an ordinary case . . . It's a page in history.'

Although Charles Pasqua, the Gaullist Interior Minister, said that there had been no deal with Sudan for the arrest and extradition of Carlos, there were reports yesterday that France had given Khartoum's Islamic government satellite photographs to help it to put down the rebellion in south Sudan.

The French Interior Ministry said a 'friendly' country told France Carlos had moved to Sudan at the beginning of this year with a diplomatic passport under a false identity. Philippe Rondot, a former general in the French espionage service, photographed Carlos in Khartoum; the Sudanese were persuaded that he was on their territory and he was arrested.

Secret deal with Sudan, page 9