- Associated Press - Sunday, November 6, 2011

PARIS — Once among the world’s most feared masterminds of terror, the man known as Carlos the Jackal is now a graying convict who has been behind bars for 17 years.

On Monday, he goes on trial again as a defendant in four deadly attacks that occurred nearly three decades ago, and the verdict could determine his chances of ever being freed.

Defiant ahead of the proceedings before a special anti-terrorism court - expected to last six weeks - the 62-year-old whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez told a French radio in a clandestine interview that he has “a character adapted to this kind of combat.”

“I’m still in a combative state of mind,” he said.

Still, Ramirez, who has Type 2 diabetes and apparently is mellowing, misses the family life he said he sacrificed in his years globe-hopping as a freelance terrorist through Middle Eastern and European capitals, then on the run and finally imprisoned in France in 1994.

He keeps dreaming that one day he can leave his French captors for his home country, Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, once praised him as a “revolutionary fighter” - and whose embassy in Paris reportedly supplied him until recently with Havana cigars.

“The first thing I’ll do if I get out by the grace of God … I’ll start with my honeymoon. It’s more than a decade late,” he said in a telephone interview last month with Europe 1 radio.

His 2001 prison marriage in an Islamic ceremony with one of his lawyers, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre - his third wife - is classic Carlos, just like the unauthorized interview ahead of his trial that landed him in solitary confinement - ended only by a 10-day hunger strike.

Life’s little basics are lacking, he said.

“I can’t shave, I can’t cut my nails,” he complained.

Most of the world remembers another Carlos the Jackal, commanding and boastful, slipping from country to country at will and defying Western secret services. For the revolutionary movements that thrived in the 1970s, he became a living legend.

Ramirez is the chief suspect in the 1975 seizure of OPEC oil ministers, and received a hero’s welcome when he landed with his hostages in Algeria, and in the 1976 Palestinian hijacking of a French jetliner to Entebbe, Uganda, which ended with an Israeli commando raid.

Doubt has been cast on his alleged role in the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

But his links to hijackings, bombings and killings reflect the multiple causes Ramirez took on in mercenary style, from joining the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to helping extreme-left European terrorist groups, protected all the while by the shadowy alliances that thrived during the Cold War.

Safe havens grew scarce and allies turned dubious when the world was upended by the fall of communism in 1989. French secret agents snatched him from his refuge in Khartoum, Sudan, on Aug. 14, 1994, and spirited him to Paris in a sack.

Even in custody, he cultivated the image of an intrepid warrior, filing a legal complaint against then-Interior Minister Charles Pasqua for kidnapping.

“I’m a professional revolutionary. The world is my domain,” he said at his 1997 trial during which he faced a Paris criminal court - unbowed and raising his left fist after being sentenced to life in prison. Under French law, he must serve 30 years.

The Carlos of then was convicted of killing at close range two unarmed French investigators and an alleged Lebanese informant, a friend he feared was a turncoat.

Now, a new moment of truth awaits Ramirez, this time in a special court devoted to terrorism cases overseen by a panel of anonymous magistrates. He is charged in connection with four deadly bombings in France, in 1982 and 1983, that killed 11 people and injured 140.

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