'The Jackal' weakens, but zeal remains
PARIS - Two weeks into a prison hunger strike, Carlos ''the Jackal,''
once the world's most-wanted terrorist, is physically weak, but
politically as defiant as ever, according to his lawyer.
The 49-year-old Venezuelan Marxist who nimbly evaded police for
decades now shuffles like an old man when he walks, can barely speak,
and displays large red blotches on his arms from poor circulation, says
his lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre.
''He risks a heart attack or cerebral hemorrhage at any moment,'' says
the lawyer, who visited him in prison last week.
She says Carlos, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, has lost 29
pounds since he began a hunger strike Nov. 3 to press for an end to
four years of solitary confinement. Carlos also is demanding French
language lessons to help him prepare appeals, an end to alleged
confiscation of his mail, the right to visitors, and a supply of mineral
water, instead of tap water, for carrying out his hunger strike.
With the French government refusing to meet the demands,
Coutant-Peyre denounces her client's isolation as ''mental torture'' and
claims that French authorities want him dead.
But Coutant-Peyre has an unenviable task in trying to rally public
sympathy for a man deemed one of the most cold-blooded killers in the
last quarter century. By his own admission, Carlos, who was linked to
the murders of 11 Israeli athletes in 1972 at the Munich Olympics,
killed 83 people and left hundreds injured in terrorist attacks in the
1970s and '80s. Even a former mistress, the German terrorist
Magdalena Kopp, called Carlos ''a megalomaniac who killed without
batting an eyelash.''
In 1982, then-French Interior Minister Gaston Deferre described
Carlos as ''the world's No. 1 terrorist.'' At the time, he also was wanted
for the audacious kidnapping of OPEC oil ministers in 1975 in Vienna.
Born into a rich Marxist family in Venezuela, Carlos was educated at
Moscow's Lumumba University, a training center for Soviet agents, and
converted to Islam in his late 20s. He was dubbed ''the Jackal'' after the
cunning assassin-for-hire in a Frederick Forsyth novel.
Carlos, who claims to have used 52 fake names and 100 false
passports to stay ahead of police, was finally betrayed in 1994 by
bodyguards in Khartoum, Sudan. He was drugged and flown to
France, where he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1997 for killing
two French security agents and an informer in 1975.
Despite his campaign for better prison conditions, Carlos expresses no
remorse for his past victims, his lawyer concedes. ''Carlos is happy with
the life of combat he led, and the commitments he made to the Islamic
revolution and the Palestinian independence struggle,'' she says. ''He
sees himself as a professional revolutionary engaged in a just struggle to
change the world order.''
In a last will and testament hand-written Nov. 10, Carlos called himself
a ''living martyr'' whose last wish is that ''a U.S. or Zionist enemy be
executed for each day I have spent in prison in France.'' He has been
incarcerated for more than 1,550 days in France, including time served
Prison only seems to have sharpened his revolutionary zeal. Although a
fervent supporter of Palestinian radicals, he now denounces Palestinian
leader Yasser Arafat as a traitor for giving up Arab rights in peace
accords with Israel. ''No one has the authority to surrender Jerusalem
or the Holy Land'' Carlos wrote Nov. 9 in a letter condemning Arafat
and supporting instead the more radical Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, leader
of the Iranian Islamic revolution.
There are signs, however, that Carlos is growing tiresome, even to
those he would call friends. Immediately after pronouncing his support
of Khamenei, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced
that Tehran had nothing to do with Carlos - and never has.
By Fred Coleman, USA TODAY