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Terrorist Carlos the Jackal to stand trial for 1975 murders

December 12, 1997
Web posted at: 3:59 a.m. EST (0859 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- After an international manhunt spanning more than 20 years, Carlos the Jackal, one of the world's most wanted and feared terrorists, goes on trial for the slayings of two French investigators and a Lebanese national.

Once, the Venezuelan-born guerrilla was the most feared name in terrorism. In the 1970s and early 1980s, his legend only grew as he struck again and again. He was linked with attacks and mayhem that killed more than 80 people.

Today, Carlos the Jackal, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, sits in a French prison. Prosecutors hope to put the terrorist behind bars for 30 years. Ramirez' fingerprints on the weapon and his description of the killings in an interview are giving the prosecutors a virtually open-and-shut case.

Despite being the world's most wanted terrorist, his ability to slip across borders with the help of some East Bloc and Arab countries just added to his myth. By his own count, the terrorist killed 83 people.

Carlos was bred for terrorism, experts say

The son of a left-wing Venezuelan lawyer who named his three sons Vladimir, Illich and Lenin after the late Soviet leader, Carlos had a textbook guerrilla career starting with studies at Moscow's Patrice Lumumba university for Third World students.

Experts say he joined the violent Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), cutting his teeth with the attempted murder of prominent British Zionist and Marks and Spencer department store chief Edward Sieff in his bath in London.

Carlos is most infamous for his participation in the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian commandos at the Munich Olympics. He plotted the 1975 seizure of all 11 oil ministers at a Vienna OPEC meeting, and the 1976 Palestinian hijacking of a French jetliner to Uganda.

Support for the terrorist dried up as Communism collapsed and Middle East governments began looking for peace. Carlos was said to have been invited to leave his Damascus refuge in 1991 and to have been turned away from Libya and Baghdad.

He found a last retreat in Sudan in 1993, whiling away time with his Jordanian wife Lana Abdel Salam Jarrar. In a snapshot taken during his last months as a free man in Khartoum, he looked heavier and more like a respectable businessman than an architect of terror.

He may have run out of sponsors for terrorism by the time of his capture, but former French intelligence director Pierre Marion said that had no apparent affect on his love for excess. icon 179K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

Once flamboyant, now behind bars

Now, the flamboyant guerrilla who blazed a trail of terror across half the world, is a lonely middle-aged prisoner who misses his Havana cigars and may spend the rest of his life in a French jail. He has been languishing in solitary confinement since French secret agents spirited him from Sudan more than three years ago.

He will be brought to justice with the help of the Sudanese, who arranged for his arrest after he was anesthetized for minor surgery in 1994. They handed him over to French agents, who bundled him into a sack and onto a plane bound for Villacoublay airbase outside Paris.

Ramirez killed two French investigators and a Lebanese national in front of his Paris apartment   

In Paris, his defense team will argue that he was kidnapped and has been illegally brought to trial.

Many in his old Paris neighborhood knew the story that even Ramirez himself bragged about -- the cold-blooded murder of two unarmed French police officers and an informant. In June of 1975, Ramirez was posing as a student in a small Paris apartment when two unarmed investigators and a fellow militant arrived at his door to question him. Ramirez subsequently opened fire, killing all three, and fled the country.

Twenty-two years after the terrorist escaped over the rooftops to begin his life on the run, a lawyer for the victims' families expresses his certainty that Carlos will never escape again.

"For all the terrorists all over the world, this trial means that ten years after, 20 years after, 30 years after, you can be judged one day and be punished," Francis Szpiner, the lawyer for the victims' families.

Carlos, in fact, has already been tried and found guilty in absentia of the Paris police murders. Although Paris law requires new court proceedings now that he is actually in custody, few expect this trial to last more than a week.

In the three years he has been shuttling between French courts and jails, investigators have gathered implicating Carlos in at least five other terrorist attacks in France. The crimes should keep him in front of judges for years.

It is said that from his isolation cell, the flamboyant terrorist has sometimes been heard screaming at night: "It's me, Carlos!"

Only his fellow prisoners and jailers can hear him now.

Correspondent Jim Bittermann and Reuters contributed to this report.


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