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'Carlos The Jackal' convicted, sentenced to life in prison

In this story: December 23, 1997
Web posted at: 7:46 p.m. EST (0046 GMT)

PARIS (CNN) -- A French jury convicted Carlos "The Jackal" of murder Tuesday after the defendant gave a rambling, three-hour harangue in which he said "there is no law for me." A judge sentenced him to life in prison.

"When one wages war for 30 years, there is a lot of blood spilled -- mine and others," the defendant said. "But we never killed anyone for money, but for a cause -- the liberation of Palestine."

The 48-year-old Venezuelan revolutionary, who was born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was charged with shooting to death two French secret agents and a pro-Palestinian Lebanese turned informer. He is also blamed for more than 80 killings and hundreds of injuries around the world during the 1970s and early 1980s.

Prosecutor Gino Necchi argued Monday that the evidence "fully supports" a guilty verdict and urged the jury to send Carlos to prison for the rest of his life.

In his final plea, Ramirez, who defended himself, stuck to the theme he has sounded throughout the trial: that he is a political combatant with a "love of revolution and love of justice."

'I am a political prisoner'

"I am a political prisoner," the dapper, graying militant said, reading confidently from notes.

Carlos, who was captured in Sudan in 1994 after two decades on the run and smuggled to France in a sack, was retried for the three 1975 killings after receiving a life sentence in his absence five years ago.

He spoke at length Tuesday about the Palestinian cause, for which he fought for many years, calling it "a worldwide war and a war the world will win," and condemning Israel as a "terrorist nation."

During the trial -- held before a nine-person jury and three judges -- Ramirez often referred to his arrest and imprisonment as a "Zionist plot" and said the 1975 killings were orchestrated by the Mossad, the Israeli secret service.

Once a star among international guerrillas and feared as a terrorist mastermind, Carlos now looks more like a smartly-dressed middle-aged executive.

He is widely accused of carrying out the 1975 seizure of OPEC oil ministers and was involved in the 1976 Palestinian hijacking of a French jetliner to Entebbe, Uganda, which ended with an Israeli commando raid.

He has proudly claimed "moral responsibility" for all the attacks of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), but has neither denied nor claimed the killings for which he is now on trial.

Eyewitnesses didn't testify

Police say three eyewitnesses described Carlos' role in the shootings to them within hours of the event, although none of the three could be found for the trial.

Key dates in the life of 'Carlos the Jackal'
1949: Ilich Ramirez Sanchez born in Venezuela to wealthy communist lawyer, who gave his son Lenin's middle name.
1964: Joins Communist Students Movement in Venezuela. Goes for guerrilla training in Cuba.
1968: Begins study at Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow, famous as training ground for future terrorists and KGB recruits.
1970: Joins the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Begins terrorist career.
1970-1982: Key attacks linked to Carlos include massacre of Israeli athletes at Munich Olympics, seizing OPEC oil ministers in Vienna, hijacking of Air France plane to Entebbe, half-a-dozen attacks on French targets.
1992: Convicted by a French court in absentia for 1975 killing of two French counterintelligence agents and Lebanese citizen.
1994: Carlos arrested in Sudan. Transferred to France where he jailed in solitary confinement in maximum-security prison.
1997: Carlos stands trial for the 1975 killing of the French counterintelligence agents and the Lebanese citizen. French law requires retrial upon repatriation.

The prosecution said Carlos boasted of the killings in letters to several friends, in a newspaper interview, in a telephone conversation with an associate who later wrote about their chat in a book, and in conversations with diplomats seized during his most daring escapade -- the kidnapping of the 11 oil ministers in 1975.

Prosecutors' evidence has included fingerprints on a whiskey bottle and glasses at the apartment; fingerprints on a postcard addressed to a Venezuelan friend of Ramirez; and accounts of conversations from his former friends and lovers.

Prosecutor Gino Necchi asked for a life sentence because the victims -- inspectors Raymond Dous and Jean Donatini, and Michel Moukharbal, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- were unarmed.

But Olivier Maudrut, Carlos' lawyer, questioned why the court has heard 22-year-old depositions rather than the witnesses, and why only a photograph was displayed of a key letter said to be in Carlos' handwriting.

In that letter, prosecutors said, he wrote of how Moukharbal betrayed him and was then sent "to a better world."

"A person cannot be condemned to life in prison based on a photocopy," Maudret said.

Suspected in 3 other bombings

At times angry and brimming with hate, at other times cracking jokes and poking fun at himself, Carlos took an active role in his own defense during the eight-day trial, frequently jumping to his feet with a sarcastic remark or to question a witness in his Spanish-accented French.

Carlos' current trial is likely to be only the first step on a long judicial path.

French anti-terror magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere is investigating him for three Paris bombings that killed five people in 1974 and 1982, a 1983 bombing that killed five in Marseille's train station and two attacks on French trains in which seven people died in 1982 and 1983.

He is also wanted in Germany for the bombing of Berlin's French cultural center, and in Austria for the 1975 kidnapping of the 11 OPEC oil ministers in Vienna.

Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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