Carlos le Chacal: Paris court confirms third life sentence of terrorist for grenade attack

The convicted terrorist known as “Carlos the Jackal” has lost an appeal against his life sentence in Paris.

Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos, was an “anti-imperialist” who carried out attacks around the world in the 1970s and 1980s.

The Venezuelan was sentenced to life in prison for throwing a grenade at a Paris shopping center in 1974, killing two people.

Sanchez had appealed to reduce his sentence before the special assize court in Paris, 47 years after the attack.

But in the third trial on Friday, the French court rejected his appeal and upheld his life sentence after more than two hours of deliberation.

This will likely be the last trial in France for Sanchez, who was one of the world’s most wanted men and is serving two more life sentences.

Who is “Carlos the Jackal”?

Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, a self-proclaimed “professional revolutionary”, was born in Venezuela in 1949.

He became known for his involvement in camps in Jordan and then in Europe, for an armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

The nickname “Carlos the Jackal” was given to him after a copy of “The Day of the Jackal” by Frederick Forsyth was seen by a reporter in Sanchez’s London apartment.

Sanchez still declares himself in the service of the Palestinian cause and claims to have “killed at least 83 people”.

He was blamed by France for a deadly attack on the Drugstore Publicis near the Champs Elysees in Paris on September 15, 1974.

At around 5:10 p.m., a grenade thrown from the mezzanine restaurant exploded in the shopping center below. Two people were killed and at least 34 others injured.

According to the prosecution, Sanchez carried out the attack to pressure France to release a Japanese detainee – a member of the Japanese Red Army, a branch of the PFLP.

After several years as a refugee in Eastern Europe and Arab countries, Sanchez was finally detained by the French secret service in Sudan in 1994 and transferred to France.

Sanchez was then convicted of a triple murder in Paris in 1975 of two French secret service agents and an informant, and four bombings between 1982 and 1983 which left 11 dead and 191 injured.

The French secret service attributed other attacks to Sanchez, such as a hostage-taking at the French embassy in The Hague and the attempted attack on two Israeli planes in Orly.

He also led the kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in a 1975 raid on its Vienna headquarters that left three people dead.

Since his capture, he has been serving two life sentences for the triple murder and the bombings.

In a detention report read by the president of the prison, where he has been incarcerated for 13 years, Sanchez is said to have a “condescending and cranky attitude” and a “self-centered personality”.

“Carlos” challenged this in court and described himself as a “political prisoner”.

Why was he tried again?

In March 2017, “Carlos le Chacal” was sentenced to a third life sentence for the Paris bombing of 1974, a verdict which was confirmed a year later on appeal.

But the French Court of Cassation ordered a new trial in November 2019 to re-examine the length of this sentence.

Sanchez had been convicted of murder and attempted murder by “the effect of explosive power” linked to the grenade attack. But the higher court overturned a charge of transporting a grenade “without a legitimate reason”.

His lawyer Isabelle Coutant Peyre, who became his companion in detention, claimed that Sanchez had been the victim of “forensic archeology”.

Peyre said if Sanchez had not been convicted of transporting weapons, he could not have been guilty of any of the other charges.

Sanchez, now 71, had described his time behind bars in France as a vacation and even raised his fist to greet the few supporters in the courtroom.

“I have been on forced vacation in France for twenty-seven and a half years,” he said at the start of his trial.

During the trial in Paris, he even opposed a search of his clothes upon his arrival at the courthouse, claiming that “nothing illegal” had ever been found on him.

Carlos attempted to intervene on several other occasions during the trial, but the president prevented him from doing so.

Asked about his “prospects,” Sanchez said he wanted to “return to Venezuela”, where he was sure he would be “respected”.