France sentences ‘Carlos the Jackal’ to another life term

“Carlos the Jackal” — the Cold War warrior, international terrorist and once the world’s most wanted man — was handed a second life sentence by a Paris court Thursday after being convicted of masterminding a series of bombings in France 30 years ago.

Just before midnight, a specially convened panel of judges announced that it had found the 62-year-old former Marxist revolutionary, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, guilty of the attacks that killed 11 people and injured 150 in the early 1980s.

Ramirez Sanchez, a Venezuelan who had dubbed himself an “elite gunman,” has been serving a life term in a French prison for murder since 1994 after French secret agents snatched him in Sudan, stuffed him into a sack and dragged him back to France.

France does not impose the death penalty, so a life sentence is the strongest it can deliver.

With his receding hairline and paunch, Ramirez Sanchez seemed a shadow of the scourge of “capitalist imperialism” who was once known for the trademark black glasses he wore in a police mugshot wired around the world. But in court, he proved to have lost none of his ability to provoke and procrastinate.


Asked by a judge at the end of the six-week trial whether he had any final words to say in his defense, Ramirez Sanchez said he did. Then he spoke for more than five hours.

He described himself as a “living martyr,” protested his innocence and praised Moammar Kadafi, Osama bin Laden and former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu.

He stood accused of four bombings, two targeting high-speed trains in France in 1982 and 1983. Prosecutors say the attacks were aimed at putting pressure on French authorities to release his then-girlfriend, German-born Magdalena Kopp, and fellow revolutionary Bruno Breguet.

Ramirez Sanchez denied involvement in the attacks.

His rambling diatribes during the trial covered an eclectic array of subjects, including fallen comrades, the “Zionist” state, Soviet passports, French judges, hashish and the death penalty. During the proceedings, Ramirez Sanchez frequently gave a raised fist-salute to members of the audience. Or he waved and blew kisses.

Before the judges retired to consider their verdict Thursday evening, Ramirez Sanchez fired one last verbal shot.

“You are independent, and the decision you’re about to take, you will be, each one of you, personally responsible for it,” he said.

Ramirez Sanchez finished his closing speech by brandishing a document he claimed was Kadafi’s last testament, raised his fist and declared, “Long live the revolution! ... God is great!”

Willsher is a special correspondent.