PARIS (Reuters) - Carlos the Jackal, a left-wing revolutionary who was once one of the world’s most wanted militants, appeared in a French court on Monday to fight a life-in-jail conviction for a grenade attack that killed two people in a Paris store 44 years ago.
The self-declared “professional revolutionary”, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has spent close to quarter of a century behind bars in France since he was captured and spirited out of Sudan by French special forces in 1994.
He harbours few illusions after fighting and losing legal fights against two other convictions that also earned him life jail sentences.
The third and last appeal is largely “for the challenge of it”, Francis Vuillemin, one of his two defence lawyers along with Carlos’ own wife, told Reuters.
“Carlos is not an angel but even in his case the rule of a fair trial must be respected,” he said, dismissing his client’s conviction by a lower court as “spectacularly full of holes”.
Monday’s appeals trial, running until March 16, concerns his conviction last year and a life sentence for an attack in 1974 in which 36 people were hurt in addition to the two killed at a shop on Paris’s Champs Elysee avenue, the Drugstore Publicis.
Carlos the Jackal, now 68, is already serving two other life terms. One is for the murder of two French police officers and an informant in June 1975 and the other for a series of attacks on trains, a railway station and a Paris street in 1982 and 1983 that killed 11 people and wounded about 150 more.
The nickname was given to him by the media 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.
His other main lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, married him after meeting him as defence attorney.
In the past, the former militant’s appearance in court was a big event. Monday’s was lower key, even if the balding man, with a grey moustache and wearing a dark suit, challenged each word uttered by the presiding judge.
“We don’t expect much of all this because the stakes are not much bigger than allowing Mr Sanchez take a bit of fresh air,” said Guillaume Denoix de Saint-Marc, director of the French Association of victims of Terrorism, attending the trial.
Writing by Brian Love; editing by Richard Lough