Isabelle Coutant-Peyre (R), French lawyer and wife of Venezuelan Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos, arrives at the Palais de Justice in Paris, before the start of the trial of Venezuelan Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos, for the deadly bombing of a Paris shop. (Photo: Reuters)
Carlos the Jackal, once one of the world’s most wanted criminals, was back in a French court on Monday, charged with a grenade attack on a Paris shop more than 40 years ago that killed two people.
The Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has been held in France for 23 years since being captured in Khartoum by French special forces and was previously sentenced to life imprisonment for deadly attacks in the 1970s and 1980s.
In his latest trial, which began in a Paris court on Monday, he faces charges including murder over the September 15, 1974 grenade attack on the Publicis drugstore in central Paris, which also injured 34. Ramirez denies involvement.
Ramirez, 67, with receding white hair, refused to give his name in court and gave his age as 17 “give or take 50 years”.
Ramirez, who wore a dark jacket and metal-framed glasses, was confined in a glass box, with just an opening to speak through. Three police officers flanked him in the box.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Marxist militant and self-dubbed “elite gunman” became a symbol of Cold War anti-imperialism and public enemy number one for Western governments.
He sealed his notoriety in 1975 with the hostage-taking of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in the name of the Palestinian struggle, and went on to become an international gun-for-hire with Soviet bloc protectors.
The press gave him his nickname after a reporter saw a copy of Frederick Forsyth’s “The Day of the Jackal” at Ramirez’s London flat and mistakenly assumed it belonged to him.
He was convicted in 1997 of murdering two French police officers and an informant in 1975 in Paris and in 2011 of masterminding attacks on two trains, a train station and a Paris street that killed 11 people and wounded about 150 more.
Investigators say they have established links between the Publicis case, Ramirez, and a hostage-taking at the French Embassy in The Hague two days previously by the Japanese Red Army militant group.
The U.S.-made hand grenade used in the Publicis attack came from the same batch as three grenades used in The Hague attack and another grenade found in a Paris apartment used by Ramirez, they say.
Some years later, in a newspaper interview which Ramirez now denies having given, he was quoted as claiming responsibility for the drugstore attack, saying its aim was to put pressure on French authorities to wrap up negotiations with the hostage-takers in The Hague.
Speaking to Reuters before the trial, Ramirez’s lawyer Francis Vuillemin said the charges against Ramirez were non-existent. He attacked “contradictory and dishonest” testimony in the case and a procedure he said had not respected the law.
Seventeen witnesses are expected to testify in the trial, which is expected to take until around the end of this month.