Carlos the Jackal pleads innocence in French court

PARIS Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:15pm GMT

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PARIS (Reuters) - Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known to the world as "Carlos the Jackal", pleaded his innocence of terrorism charges on Thursday during what is expected to be the last day of a trial in France.

The Venezuelan-born Sanchez, once one of the most wanted of all international criminals, denied any involvement in four bloody bombings that wounded nearly 200 people and left 11 dead.

"There is nothing...to connect me with these four attacks," he told the court, making a zero sign with his thumb and index finger.

Ramirez, 62, a self-dubbed "elite gunman" who has been lingering in a French prison since his capture in 1994, serving a life sentence for murder in a separate case, was calm and casual as he took the floor to poke holes in the case against him.

Rambling on for close to two hours, and only occasionally raising his voice, he spoke on a range of subjects, from prison life to Zionist strategy, the French state, hashish and even the death penalty.

During a discourse about one of the opposing lawyers, he said he assumed "political and military responsibility" for the actions committed by his revolutionary organisation, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and for the Palestinian cause. But he made no connection with the four attacks of which he stands accused, and for which prosecutors have requested he be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Notorious for a bloody hostage-taking of OPEC oil ministers in 1975, Ramirez has been called a gun-for-hire by his opponents, and a cold-blooded killer by a former cohort turned witness against him.

He stands accused of masterminding four separate attacks in France, on two trains, a train station and a Paris street, that killed 11 people and wounded nearly 200. Prosecutors say the bombings were Ramirez's answer to the police seizure of two of his gang, including his lover.

But Ramirez, who introduced himself on the first day of the trial as "a revolutionary by profession," maintains the court is biased and the charges are based on gossip and unreliable photocopies of Eastern European secret service archives.

Displaying his usual flare for drama, Ramirez name-dropped Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and even former French president Jacques Chirac, citing the latter's guilty verdict given in the same courthouse earlier in the day.

Pointing to prosecutors, he said, "They make up a little part of the conspiracy." At one point he asked the court how they could stand to hear attorneys commit perjury.

A verdict is expected as early as Thursday evening.

(Reporting By Thierry Leveque and Alexandria Sage; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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