Carlos plays the last of the great revolutionaries

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It was a polished performance, even a cheeky one. Carlos enjoyed his day in court (the first of many). But anyone who was a student in the 1970s knew instantly who Ilich Ramirez Sanchez was; or at least who he was pretending to be. He was the upper middle-class boy, who dressed and conversed in the urbane, bourgeois manner, but spoke in fluently earnest Marxist jargon.

There were scores and scores of people like that in the early 1970s: most of them, like Carlos's own brothers Lenin and Vladimir, have long since reverted to the selfish pleasures of bourgeoisdom. But Ilich was different: he believed his own propaganda, and waged guerrilla war on the western world for nearly two decades.

When he finally appeared in court in Paris on Friday, there was something almost touching about his archaism, despite the scores of deaths for which he is blamed. He was reminiscent of the Japanese soldiers who emerged from the jungle of Pacific islands in the late 1960s, astonished to find that their side had lost and gone home.

Except that Carlos insisted that the war was not over. To Carlos, there was still a crime called "revisionism". There was still something called "The Revolution" and an enemy called "American Imperialism", which, aided by Zionism, "the canker of humanity", was still in mortal combat with the "old Leninist tradition" which he proudly claimed to represent. "The Revolution is not petty. The pettiness is all on your side," he declared at one stage.

Was this Rip Van Winkle act just a pretence? Some French observers thought that it was. Carlos was enjoying himself by living up to his reputation as the last of the great revolutionaries.

Certainly, there were other sides of Carlos on view. There was the cynically smooth manipulator, who engaged the presiding judge in men-of-the-world banter: "I was born into a family of magistrates, of lawyers, you know. I'm somewhat in my element here." There was the Latino lady's man, with his camel-coloured jacket and multi-coloured cravat and rakish moustache. He beamed so broadly, and suggestively, at the women jurors that he was ticked off by the presiding judge. There was the anti-Zionist, verging on the anti-semite: he complained that Francis Szpiner, the diminutive Jewish lawyer representing families of victims of terrorism, reminded him of "that pugnacious dwarf, Yitzhak Shamir".

More fun and games are guaranteed this week. A score of lawyers had been jostling for the right to defend Carlos for free: he has fired all but three, complaining that they were colluding with the prosecution. As his principal lawyer - other than himself - he has settled upon the previously little known Isabelle Coutant-Peyre. In a letter to the presiding judge, Ramirez Sanchez announced that only she had the courage to "jump into the lion's den" and reveal the truth about the "Palestinian, Israeli and French manipulations" which led to the triple murder in 1975 of which he is accused.