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Carlos the Jackal Receives a Third Life Sentence in France

PARIS — The international terrorist and self-professed Marxist revolutionary known as Carlos the Jackal received a life sentence — his third — on Tuesday for a 1974 attack on a Paris drugstore that killed two people and wounded 34.

Carlos, whose real name is Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, was found guilty by a panel of five judges in a special terrorism court of tossing a hand grenade onto the crowded floor of the store in September 1974.

The guilty verdict was welcomed by the survivors and the victims’ families, Georges Holleaux, a lawyer representing the widows of the two men who died in the attack, said in a telephone interview. “The lesson is that when it comes to terrorism, one should never, never, never give up,” Mr. Holleaux said.

But Francis Vuillemin, one of Mr. Ramírez’s lawyers, vowed to appeal the decision, and claimed in a phone interview that the judges had been “permeated” with “the truth conveyed by the media for 43 years.”

“They have not had the courage to fight against that and acquit him,” he said.

The trial was the climax of a legal saga that began in 1983, when a judge dropped the charges for lack of evidence. The case was reopened in 2010, based on new evidence.

Mr. Ramírez, 67, who was born in Venezuela, has been incarcerated in France since shortly after his capture in Sudan by French agents in 1994, and is already serving two life sentences. The first was handed down in 1997 in the killing of two French police agents and a Lebanese informer in 1975, and the second in 2011 for a string of attacks in France in 1982 and 1983.

The third sentence almost guarantees that Mr. Ramírez, once praised by the former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez as a “revolutionary fighter,” will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The 1974 grenade attack, in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood, occurred during an era of terrorist assaults orchestrated by Marxist groups in Europe and elsewhere.

The son of a well-off Marxist lawyer, Mr. Ramírez was educated in Moscow and moved to Lebanon, where he found common cause with left-wing Palestinian radicals. He later allied himself with the Baader-Meinhof Gang of West Germany.


Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, in a 2004 photograph. Credit European Pressphoto Agency

He first gained international attention when he led an assault on an OPEC meeting in Vienna in 1975, taking 11 oil ministers hostage and killing three people.

A fictionalized version of him became the shadowy master assassin of the Jason Bourne thrillers by Robert Ludlum, and in various films. “There are no international terrorists who have been as active in France and with such visibility,” said Olivier Assayas, who directed a five-hour film about Mr. Ramírez that was released in 2010.

The drugstore bombing is believed to have been carried out on behalf of the Japanese Red Army, an extremist group responsible for a massacre at the Tel Aviv airport in 1972. In July 1974, one of its members was arrested at Orly airport near Paris. The Japanese Red Army retaliated by taking hostage the French ambassador to the Netherlands and 10 others in The Hague.

Prosecutors have said they believe that the assault on the drugstore was intended to put further pressure on the French authorities.

Investigators say they think the grenade was stolen by the Baader-Meinhof Gang or the Red Army Faction from a United States Army ammunition depot in Miesau, West Germany, and passed on to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The Japanese Red Army member was exchanged for 11 hostages held at the French Embassy in the Netherlands, and he and the kidnappers were put on a plane to Syria with $ 300,000 in ransom.

The motive for the siege of the French Embassy and the drugstore attack differed substantially from those of more recent assaults, like the coordinated attacks by jihadist terrorists linked to the Islamic State that shook Paris in November 2015.

“The Venezuelan rich kid has certainly never been a suicide bomber,” Colin Smith, a British journalist who wrote the biography “Carlos, Portrait of a Terrorist,” said.

Mr. Holleaux said Mr. Ramírez was very proud of his former position as the “political and military chief of operations in Europe for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” led by George Habash. At his trials, Mr. Ramírez has been known to deliver hourslong speeches that extol his revolutionary views.

“Perhaps he wouldn’t have been so swashbuckling in court if he knew he was facing the death sentence,” Mr. Smith said.

Source: NYT > World

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