`Carlos the Jackal' complains of libel in recent book

 

WHO would believe that "Carlos the Jackal", indicted for four bombings, a shoot-out, a grenade attack on a cafe, and blamed for the deaths of at least 83 people, would dare sue for libel?

Yet Carlos's 50 lawyers said the recently published book, Carlos, the Secret Networks of International Terrorism, by a French journalist, Bernard Violet, violated his privacy, damaged his image and deprived him of a fair trial. The lawyers demanded £84,337 in damages.

When the case came up at the Paris tribunal, Mr Dominique de Leusse, the lawyer for Violet and his publishers, Seuil, expressed shock "that this man who always used the most brutal methods to attack our democratic institutions and justice system, who always showed the greatest scorn for human life, cloaks himself today in the law."

The judges agreed with Mr de Leusse and threw the libel case out of court. Now the 47-year-old Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilitch Ramirez-Sanchez and who was kidnapped by French commandos in Khartoum on August 14th, 1994, sits in his cell in Fresnes prison poring over Violet's book. "He's enraged that I got access to the minutes of his interrogation," the author said.

"He knows they had to come from one of his lawyers, and he's searching for clues to who betrayed him."

Two inspectors from Scotland Yard arrived in Paris recently to interrogate Carlos about his first attempted murder, the December 1973 shooting in London of Joseph Edward Sieff, brother of the head of Marks & Spencer and an ardent supporter of Israel.

Carlos had to be removed forcibly from his cell and then refused to utter a word to the British inspectors. Through repeated interrogations, he has refused to discuss his London period. "At the beginning of the 1970s, Carlos had contacts with the IRA in London," Violet said. "The attacks he committed in London bore the marks of the IRA."

Carlos's only other known Irish connection occurred later, in 1982, when the INLA was implicated in "Operation Alamo", an arms shipment sent by Carlos from, Hungary to the Basque separatist group, ETA.

Violet's book brings three major new revelations to Carlos's legend. Documents of the former East German intelligence service, the Stasi, describe Carlos's relations with 15 different radical groups and spy agencies. Previously little known texts by two of Carlos's former comrades-in-arms give first-hand descriptions of his character. And Violet's access to the minutes of Carlos's interrogation by Judge Jean-Louis Brugiere provide the first evidence that Carlos may have been recruited by the Russians when he was still a student.

"Before I even got to Moscow, I had contacted the KGB through their man at the Soviet embassy in London," Carlos told Judge Brugiere. "Through this contact I got a visa and a plane ticket. This gave me a certain importance in Moscow."

Carlos describes himself as a "professional international revolutionary". Violet divides his blood-soaked career into two distinct periods: "In the 1970s he worked for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I think he was completely sincere, 40 years earlier he would have been fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War."

Carlos drew women to him with talk of justice for suffering people and the Palestinian cause. "At the end of the 1970s, he founded his own group and put himself at the service of east European and Arab governments, as an international terrorist. It became a business for him."

Carlos showed his ruthless side when he led the December 21st, 1975, raid on OPEC headquarters in Vienna, in which three people were killed. Mr Hans-Joachim Klein, one of two Germans who participated in the assault, was taken aback by Carlos's instructions: "Anyone who resists will be immediately executed," Mr Klein quoted Carlos as saying.

"Anyone who doesn't obey orders will be executed. Anyone who tries to escape will be executed. If someone starts screaming or becomes hysterical, he will be executed. If a member of the commando does not obey my orders or follow the instructions we agreed on, he will be executed."

Wounded in the OPEC raid, Mr Klein defected from Carlos's group three years later, sending his revolver to the German magazine Spiegel, along with details of planned assassinations. To this day, Mr Klein lives clandestinely between France and Italy.

Ilitch Ramirez-Sanchez's case, due to be heard this winter, promises to be the trial of the century. Carlos was condemned to life imprisonment in absentia for a 1975 shoot-out in the Rue Toullier, in Paris, in which he killed two policemen and a friend who had betrayed him.

Under French law he must be retried. Yet Bernard Violet doubts Carlos will spend the rest of his life in prison. "He knows too many secrets," Violet explains. "Either he will use what he knows to negotiate his way out, or he will play hard ball: every time he had a comrade in prison he bombed French targets until the government freed his friends.

Reuter adds: Three Scotland Yard investigators questioned Carlos in Paris yesterday over the shooting of Mr Sieff in 1973 judicial sources said.

No details of the meeting were immediately available.