Paris, France, Mar 12 – Carlos the Jackal, the perpetrator of headline-grabbing attacks in the 1970s and early 1980s, goes on trial in France on Monday for the deadly bombing of a Paris shop more than 40 years ago.
With attention in France now focused on the ever-present threat of jihadist attack, the trial in Paris will reach back to a time when Europe was repeatedly targeted by ruthless groups sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Carlos, 67, a Venezuelan whose real name is Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez, describes himself as a “professional revolutionary” and was dubbed “Carlos the Jackal” by the press when he was one of the world’s most wanted terror suspects.
The nickname came from a fictional terrorist in the 1971 Frederick Forsyth novel, “The Day of the Jackal”, which was turned into a popular film.
Arrested in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in 1994 by elite French police, Carlos is already serving a life sentence for the murders of two policemen killed in Paris in 1975 and that of a Lebanese revolutionary.
He was also found guilty of four bombings in Paris and Marseille in 1982 and 1983, some targeting trains, which killed a total of 11 people and injured nearly 150.
Carlos will be judged by three judges for the attack on the Drugstore Publicis, a busy shop once located in Saint-Germain-des-Pres in the heart of Paris.
In the late afternoon of September 15, 1974, a grenade was lobbed into the entrance of the store, killing two men and leaving 34 people injured.
– ‘Wounds never healed’ –
Georges Holleaux, a lawyer representing the two widows of the men killed and 16 other people affected, said they relished the chance to finally see Carlos in court.
“The victims have been waiting so long for Carlos to be judged and convicted. Their wounds have never healed,” he said.
Carlos’s lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, said the trial was a waste of time and money.
“What exactly is the point of having a trial so long after the events?” she said.
Carlos denies the charges, which include “murders carried out with a terrorist organisation”.
Al Watan Al-Arabi magazine published an interview in 1979 in which Carlos is said to have admitted that he had thrown the grenade into the shop.
He has since denied giving the interview.
The prosecution says the attack was linked to a hostage-taking at the French embassy in the Dutch capital The Hague that had begun two days earlier, on September 13, 1974.
The Japanese Red Army, a communist militant group which had close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in which Carlos was the head of “special operations”, was demanding that French authorities free one of its members who had been arrested at Paris Orly airport two months early.
The prosecution says Carlos orchestrated the Hague hostage-taking and carried out the Paris grenade attack to force the French government to give in to the Japanese group’s demands.
He achieved his aim — the Japanese suspect was released and was able to travel to Yemen with other members of the Hague hostage-taking team.
The case against Carlos is also based on witness testimony from his former brothers-in-arms, including Hans-Joachim Klein, a German to whom the Venezuelan is said to have admitted he wanted to “apply pressure to get the Japanese man freed”.
Investigators have tracked the provenance of the grenade and say it came from the same batch as those used by the Hague hostage-takers and had been stolen from a US army base in 1972. One was also found at the Paris home of Carlos’s mistress.