Self-styled revolutionary Carlos the Jackal was once the most wanted fugitive in the world. Already serving two life terms for murder, he was given a third life sentence on March 28 for a deadly 1974 Paris bombing. Prosecutor Remi Crosson du Cormier had told the court in Paris that “all evidence gathered in this investigation points to Carlos” while admitting that investigators had found no DNA, fingerprints, or CCTV evidence from the grenade attack on a store in the French capital that left two dead and 34 injured on September 15, 1974. The flamboyant white-haired defendant, wearing a black shirt and jacket with a trademark kerchief in the breast pocket, blew kisses at supporters at the start of the hearing, taking the stand to denounce the “absurdity of a trial held 43 years after the fact”. Lawyers for the 67-year-old Carlos, a Venezuela native, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, had derided the two-week trial as “judicial paleontology”.
Defense lawyer Francis Vuillemin, calling for an acquittal, said a conviction would only feed the cult status of his client, who had been in prison in France since he was arrested by French elite police in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 1994. Carlos was the world’s most wanted man in the 1970s and early 1980s, when Europe was repeatedly targeted by groups sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. He boasted at the start of the trial that no one in the Palestinian resistance executed more people than he had. He has claimed personal responsibility for 80 deaths but repeatedly denied responsibility for the Paris attack on the Drugstore Publicis store in the upmarket Left Bank district of Saint-Germain. Carlos argued that he should not be required to testify against himself and said he faced death if he divulged operational information. On March 28 he returned to his “Palestinian resistance” rulebook, saying that one does not snitch, and one does not cooperate with a court one does not recognize. Little known at the time of the Drugstore Publicis attack, Carlos rose to international notoriety the following year when his commando group burst into a meeting of the powerful OPEC oil cartel in Vienna, taking 11 people hostage. Three people were killed. Carlos is serving life sentences for the murders of two policemen in Paris in 1975 and of a former comrade who betrayed him. He was also found guilty of four bombings in Paris and Marseille in 1982 and 1983, some targeting trains, which killed a total of 11 people and injured nearly 150. He was dubbed “Carlos the Jackal” by the press when he was giving international security services the slip while on the run. The nickname came from a fictional terrorist in the 1971 Frederick Forsyth novel, The Day of the Jackal, which was turned into a popular film.