Trial of 'celebrity terrorist' Carlos the Jackal starts in confusion in Paris
John Lichfield has been The Independent's man in Paris since 1997, covering French news. Before that, he was the paper's Foreign Editor and he has also worked in Brussels and Washington. In 1999, he was the UK press Awards Foreign Reporter of the year.
Monday 13 May 2013
The 1970s “celebrity terrorist” Ilich Ramirez Sanchez – better known as “Carlos the Jackal” – complained on Monday that the Venezuelan government was trying to sabotage his appeal against life imprisonment in France.
Sanchez, 63, had counted on the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, to finance his six weeks long appeal hearing which has begun in Paris. He told the court that he had no money and he had been forced to order his large defence team to stay at home.
Sanchez, the symbol of a “cool but cruel” middle class international terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s, has been in jail in France since he was kidnapped by French agents in Sudan in 1994. He was convicted in 1997 of killing two French policemen and an informer. He was given a second life sentence in 2011 for organising four terrorist attacks in France in the early 1980s in which 11 people died.
On the first day of his appeal hearing on Monday, he asked the court to appoint “duty lawyers” at the expense of the French taxpayer. “They won’t know the arguments but I know them well,” he said. “It won’t help my defence but we will muddle along.”
After a brief adjournment, the court accepted his request. Sanchez nodded and said: “A blonde and a brunette, please”.
In 2001 he “married” one of his French lawyers Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, , in an Islamic ceremony which has no status under French law. Ms Coutant-Peyre complained on Monday that the new government in Venezuela was taking an obstructive approach since President Chavez – a publicly declared Jackal admirer – had died in March.
From the early 1970s, Sanchez, the son of wealthy, left-wing Venezuelan family, became the symbol of rootless, middle class terrorism, allied to the Palestinian cause and allegedly sponsored by the Soviet Union. On 21 December, 1975, he led an attack on a meeting in Vienna of the oil producing cartel Opec in which 70 senior politicians and officials were taken hostage.
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