Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for triple assassination

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A French court sentenced Carlos the Jackal to life in prison for a triple murder in 1975. He did not go quietly, haranguing the court for four hours without producing the revelations he had threatened. John Lichfield reports from Paris.

To the end, the real Ilich Ramirez Sanchez never quite stood up.

Over the eight days of his trial, the former global Public Enemy Number One put on a series of masks: the committed "professional revolutionary"; the urbane socialite; the educated man of the world; the lawyer manque; the admirer and friend of France; the self-pitying victim of imperialist conspiracy; the gallant lady's man; the bigoted anti-semite.

Even after hearing the verdict he merely smiled, shook his fist in the air four times and said "Viva la revolucion" before walking out of the courtroom escorted by police guards.

The nine-member jury had taken four hours before convicting him of shooting Raymond Dous, Jean Donatini and Michel Moukharbal, a Lebanese colleague of Carlos in a student apartment near the Sorbonne.

But Ramirez had given a brief glimpse of all of the faces of Carlos in his final oration yesterday, a four-hour ramble, covering everything from Lenin to General Noriega and the global war against "McDonald'sisation". The portly, sprucely dressed 48-year-old man blamed for many of the most audacious, and callous, terrorist acts of the Seventies and Eighties did not get around to the staggering revelations about his dealings with Western governments that he had promised.

In the end, the observer was left with the impression that manipulation for its own sake was all that Carlos had left; or maybe that was all that there had ever been.

Much of the speech was spoken so softly that it was inaudible. He paid tribute to the "Palestinian people" to whom he had devoted his life. He urged the world to join them in a "war, a global war, a war to the death, the war which humanity must win against McDonald'sisation". He paid tribute to his leading lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, "the daughter of an old French family, a daughter of the true France". If that made him sound like a Vichy-sympathiser or a fascist, "so be it", he said.

The crime of which he was accused - the murder of the two French secret service agents and a Lebanese informer in June 1975 - was an "ambush", he said. It was all got up by the state of Israel, the "first terrorist state in history". Besides, it was not him; he was not even present. Later, however, he said: "I have never denied the facts, I confirm or deny nothing. The truth is formed like a puzzle ... You must show the world that it is all a masquerade ... One day someone will speak."

Earlier, this defence - which flew in the face of all the evidence and Carlos's own previous admissions in the Arab press - was scornfully dismissed by a lawyer for the victims. Maitre Francis Szpiner said it was below the dignity of the great international revolutionary that Carlos purported to be to make such a defence. "You say you're not just a chicken stealer but you defend yourself like a chicken stealer, not like a revolutionary."

Olivier Maudret, a lawyer appointed to defend Carlos when Ms Coutant- Peyre made a brief, choreographed withdrawal last week, said that the jury and judges could afford to acquit Carlos because he still faced five other serious charges in France.

They should throw out the case because it had been "torpedoed by the DST to cover-up a state scandal". Carlos was being tried on the "rotten basis of an aborted argument".

After the verdict, Ms Coutant-Peyre said the defence would appeal.

"It was not a just trial. He was convicted on political grounds," she said. "I consider that the decision comes from outside interests, especially America and Israel."


1949: Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, Carlos' real name, born in Venezuela to wealthy communist lawyer, who gave his son Lenin's middle name.

1964: Joins Communist Students Movement in Venezuela. Goes for guerrilla training in Cuba.

1968: Begins study at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow.

1970: Joins the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

1970-1982: Key attacks linked to Carlos include massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich Olympics, seizing of Opec oil ministers in Vienna, hijacking of Air France aircraft to Entebbe, half-a-dozen attacks on French targets.

1992: Convicted by a French court in absentia for 1975 killing of two French counterintelligence agents and a Lebanese.

1994: Arrested in Sudan. Transferred to France.

1997: Stands trial for the killings in 1975.