After years behind bars, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez is still defiant. The Venezuelan was hauled out of his French prison cell in November to answer for old crimes. The charges concerned terrorist attacks committed on French soil in the 1980s.
Prosecutors were determined to establish definitive links with the April 1982 car bombing in Paris in front of the office of the El Watan Al Arabi newspaper, which killed one person and wounded 63.
In March that year a bomb in a Paris-Toulouse train had killed five and wounded 77. It was suspected both were his work.
In December 1983, five more died the same way, and 50 were wounded. Carlos never said he was behind these attacks. But he did not disown them either.
In the thick of the Cold War, his pro-Palestinian, anti-Western armed action won him support from such like-minded corners as the Stasi East German secret police, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
What crowned Carlos an icon in the eyes of extreme left Arab revolutionaries was his hostage-taking at the Vienna headquarters of the oil producing countries’ organisation, OPEC.
A few days before Christmas 1975, he led a raid and took 11 ministers hostage – among scores of others. An Austrian policeman, an Iraqi employee and a member of the Libyan delegation were killed.
Eventually, after a flight to Algiers, the remaining hostages were freed.
But France’s memory was long. Its agents abducted Carlos from Sudan in 1994. In 1997 France sentenced him to life behind bars for the murders of two policemen and an informer more than 20 years ago.
It took three decades for the string of bombings in the 1980s to reach trial. Carlos’s lawyer, now married to him, made her position plain in 1997.
Isabelle Coutant-Peyre said: “Of course it is a political trial, the proof is the condition of the abduction, illegal abduction, by the French political police, from Khartoum.”
The defendant’s father, a lawyer in Venezuela, and now deceased, last saw Carlos in 1974. He never accepted the charges.
José Altagracia Ramírez Navas said: “My son is not a terrorist, he is a warrior, a revolutionary fighter who has dedicated the long years of his youth to the struggle for the Palestinian people’s cause.”
In contrast to this opinion, the Paris trial covered crimes widely considered to be part of a private cause that Carlos waged against the French, to force them to release two close comrades who had been arrested for terrorist activity.