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'Carlos the Jackal' Is Convicted of 3 Murders

Terrorism: He is sentenced to life in French prison for Paris killings, after denouncing the trial as a 'masquerade.'

December 24, 1997|JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PARIS — Given a last chance to explain himself in a court here, "Carlos the Jackal," the erstwhile globe-trotting terrorist nabbed by the French nearly 3 1/2 years ago, launched into a long, rambling monologue Tuesday night, lashing out at "world Zionism" and the influence of McDonald's.

The judges and jury were unimpressed. They deliberated, and early today pronounced Carlos guilty of a triple murder in Paris in 1975, sentencing him to spend the rest of his life in a French prison.

The tubby, graying Venezuelan-born leftist, 48, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, had had no illusions as to the outcome. "Personally, the verdict is secondary for me. I am a revolutionary combatant who recognizes neither the verdict nor the authority of [this] court," he said earlier Tuesday.

Carlos was convicted of gunning down two unarmed French counterintelligence officers and a Lebanese colleague turned informer who came to an apartment hide-out on the Left Bank of Paris while investigating rocket attacks on Israeli airliners at Orly airport.

The defendant denounced the trial as a "masquerade," and his lead attorney, Isabelle Coutant Peyre, warned jurors not to sacrifice her client to suit what she called American and Israeli interests.

In the nine-day proceeding, Carlos was bombastic and charming, filled with hatred and friendly. He ogled female jurors, accused Israeli agents of being behind the murders he was accused of, interrupted proceedings to contest points of detail and recounted anecdotes that seemed to miss the point.

In a confused speech that lasted almost four hours, the nattily dressed South American spoke fervently on behalf of the Palestinian cause, branded Israel "the first terrorist state in history" and spoke of "world war, war to the death, the war that humanity must win against McDonald-ization."

Stung by accusations that he had become nothing but a mercenary in the pay of former East Bloc governments and Arab nations such as Syria, Carlos protested: "When one wages war for 30 years, there is a lot of blood spilled--mine and others'. But we never killed anyone for money but for a cause--the liberation of Palestine."

For more than two decades, Carlos was on the run before being captured in August 1994 by French police in Sudan, dumped in a sack and flown to France for trial. In this country alone, he could face as many as five more trials for terrorist bombings that he is believed to have masterminded or carried out and which killed 14 people.

But it is in Austria that he launched his boldest stroke: the December 1975 assault on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries headquarters in Vienna and the kidnapping of 11 OPEC oil ministers from there to Algeria.

If terrorism has an international superstar, after the OPEC operation it was Carlos. But people expecting to glimpse a James Bond- or Che Guevara-like figure at the Paris trial, his first anywhere, were sadly disappointed. One French TV correspondent said the overweight defendant in a brown leisure suit and a silk scarf around his neck looked more like an aging Latin lounge singer.

Carlos argued until the end that he had been "kidnapped" in Sudan and therefore his trial was "illegal." Olivier Maudret, another defense lawyer, said the state resorted to trumped-up evidence and that French intelligence "torpedoed" the investigation of the murders in the Rue Toullier to cover up a "state secret."

He questioned why French police had failed to find and bring in to testify three witnesses of the murders, all South American friends of Carlos.

Five years ago, while at large, Carlos was sentenced to a life term for the June 27, 1975, killings of Jean Donatini and Raymond Dous, agents of the French counterintelligence agency, and Michel Moukharbal, a Lebanese known to Carlos as a sympathizer for the Palestinian cause. French criminal procedure required that Carlos be retried on the same charges after his capture.

On Monday, prosecutor Gino Necchi called for a life term for Carlos, saying the sentence he was asking for was "not a question of war, of revenge, but of implementing the law of the republic." Carlos answered with a guffaw.

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