'I regret not killing people that I should have killed', Carlos the Jackal tells trial
Once the world's most-wanted fugitive, the man known as 'Carlos the Jackal' appeared in a French court yesterday for a deadly 1974 attack on a Paris shopping arcade, a trial victims' families have awaited for decades.
The Venezuelan-born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez is accused of throwing a grenade from a mezzanine restaurant onto a shopping area in the French capital's Latin Quarter. Two people were killed and 34 injured.
Known as Carlos, the 67-year-old is already serving a life sentence in France for a series of murders and attacks he has been convicted of perpetrating or organising in the country on behalf of the Palestinian cause or communist revolution in the 1970s and 1980s.
As the trial opened yesterday, Carlos denounced it as a "gross manipulation of justice" 42 years after the attack. He has denied involvement and pleaded innocent.
The back and forth between him and a panel of judges provided some answers not usually heard from a criminal suspect asserting innocence.
Asked to state his profession, Carlos called himself a "professional revolutionary", and said "I'm doing fine" in prison - after more than 20 years behind bars.
At one point, the presiding judge asked him whether he had any regrets.
"Yes, I have regrets - because I'm kindhearted - that I did not kill people I should have killed," Carlos answered.
"I like people. I know what violence is. I don't like violence. I saw massacres," he added.
Speaking of his usual behaviour when he was confronted with tense situations, Carlos (inset) told the court: "I look at the scene and I shoot before everyone else. I have no merit, I was born like that."
If convicted at the end of the new trial before a special terrorism court, he could get a third life sentence. Carlos, who was convicted of terrorism in 2011, is charged this time with multiple murders in relation with a terrorist enterprise.
At the time of the 1974 attack, he was 24 and had already joined the organisation Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but hadn't yet achieved worldwide notoriety.
When police arrived at the scene of the attack, they found a devastated mall with all the windows shattered, multiple bloodstains and a hole in the marble slab of the ground floor where the grenade fell.
The two men who died were hit by metal chips that perforated vital organs and caused internal bleeding, according to court documents.
His long-time lawyer and partner, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, claims none of the witnesses described a man resembling her client, and that the whole case was trumped up.
The case took so long to go to trial because it was first dismissed for lack of evidence before being reopened when Carlos was arrested and imprisoned in France. His lawyers repeatedly argued against holding a trial, arguing the attack was too long ago and that it wouldn't make a difference for Carlos, already in prison for life.
"What need is there to hold this trial?" asked Ms Coutant-Peyre, who married Carlos in a Muslim ceremony in 2001 that is not legally binding. "It's a useless trial."
The attack's victims, however, are relieved. "The civil parties demand justice," said Georges Holleaux, lawyer for the widows of the two men killed in the attack and other civil parties to the case.