The Jackal: Carlos the revolutionary scorns court's right to judge

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The Independent Online
Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, dismissed his trial, which began in Paris yesterday, as `illegal'. John Lichfield reports that in his urbane but pompous first public appearance the middle- aged Venezuelan declared himself a `professional revolutionary in the old Leninist tradition'.

The former Global Public Enemy Number One seemed to enjoy his first day in court after three years in French jails. He smiled so enthusiastically at the mostly female jury that he was told off by the presiding judge. He gave his profession as "professional revolutionary" and his address as "the world is my domain, last address, Khartoum."

As expected, Ramirez Sanchez, 48, the son of a lawyer, challenged the legality of the proceedings and partially conducted his own defence. "I cannot be judged because of the conditions of my arrest," he declared.

The man blamed for many of the most spectacular terrorist actions of the Seventies and Eighties, was seized by French agents in Sudan in 1994 with the connivance of the Sudanese authorities.

He is charged with the murder of two French secret service agents and a Lebanese informer in Paris in 1975 but other trials are expected to follow.

Looking relaxed in a beige jacket and multi-coloured cravat, Carlos spoke calmly, although he often lapsed into the dated revolutionary terminology of his era.

He objected to the presence of the lawyer representing families of his alleged victims, claiming that he was a "militant Zionist revisionist".

He also lambasted one of the civil parties in the case, SOS-Attentats, calling it "extremist, racist and revisionist." He said the group was "exploiting the legitimate sadness of the families" of victims.

Carlos repeatedly described himself as a "professional revolutionary in the old Leninist tradition" and said he was fighting "for humanity, for the people of Palestine, for the people of France" and against what he called "American imperialism and the Zionist state".

Security for the trial, which is being held at the Palais de Justice, close to Notre Dame Cathedral in the centre of Paris, was unusually tight.

The terror network run by Carlos with the help of Soviet bloc governments collapsed long ago but the police were taking no chances.

Through his many lawyers, Ramirez Sanchez has threatened to use the trial to make embarrassing revelations about his trade-offs with Western governments and security services in the Eighties.

As a result, the French authorities say that they have not ruled out the possibility of an attempt on Carlos's own life.

The trial is expected to last a week. Ramirez Sanchez has already been convicted, in his absence, and sentenced to 30 years in prison, for the triple murder at a flat in the fifth arrondissement of Paris in June 1975.

In a lengthy interview in an Arab newspaper in the Eighties, Carlos admitted the killings but under French law he is entitled to another trial in person.

At the start of yesterday's hearing, Carlos took charge of the jury selection himself. He objected to one man and a woman with an Arab-sounding name. The second objection was puzzling, given the fact that Carlos undertook many of his most spectacular actions - including the kidnapping of Opec (Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil ministers in December 1975 - in the name of the Palestinian cause.

Before the hearing, Carlos's leading lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, repeated the threat that her client would make damaging revelations if the trial went ahead.

Asked what these would be, she said: "You'll see."