Carlos the Jackal seeks shorter French jail term at new trial

Paris (AFP) –


Carlos the Jackal, the Venezuelan militant who was behind some of the biggest terror attacks of the 1970s and 1980s, appeared in a Paris court Wednesday in an attempt to have one of his three life sentences reduced.

The self-styled revolutionary, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has been behind bars in France since 1994, when French police caught up with him in Sudan after two decades on the run.

"I've been on forced holiday in France for twenty-seven and a half years," the moustachioed white-haired defendant, now 71, quipped at the start of the proceedings.

The trial is the third in four years over a grenade attack in Paris in 1974 that killed two people and injured dozens.

Carlos, who carried out several attacks in support of the Palestinian cause, was convicted of murder in 2017 and sentenced to life in prison, a verdict that was upheld on appeal.

Carlos in a Paris courtroom in November 2000
Carlos in a Paris courtroom in November 2000 THOMAS COEX AFP/File

- No DNA evidence -

But in 2019, France's highest court sent the case back to court to reconsider his sentence, saying he should not have been convicted of both carrying and using a grenade because it amounted to being convicted twice of the same offence.

Three days of hearings have been scheduled.

Carlos has always denied responsibility for the attack at the Publicis Drugstore at Saint-Germain-des-Pres, in the heart of Paris's Left Bank.

No DNA evidence or fingerprints were found after the bombing, but a former comrade-in-arms linked Carlos to the attack.

Investigators believe the assault was designed to pressure France into freeing a jailed militant from a far-left Japanese group.

Carlos is also serving life sentences over the 1975 murders of two French policemen and a police informer, as well as for a series of bombings in Paris and Marseille in 1982 and 1983 that killed a total of 11 people and left dozens injured.

Born into a wealthy family in Caracas on October 12, 1949, Carlos joined a communist group as a teenager and studied in Moscow before joining a hardline Marxist Palestinian group.

"I am a professional revolutionary; revolution is my job," he told a French court in 2018.

He became one of the world's most wanted fugitives after leading a brazen attack on a meeting of the OPEC oil cartel in Vienna in 1975.

Carlos and five other gunmen took 11 energy ministers and dozens of others hostage.

Three people were killed before Austrian authorities agreed to supply Carlos with a plane to fly him and his team to Algiers with around 40 hostages.

The hostages were later released in return for a hefty ransom, and their abductors walked free.