Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, known worldwide as Carlos the Jackal, has applied for an early release from the French prison where he is carrying out a life sentence. Should the Jackal be freed? He is already 63 years of age and has had health problems in the recent past, so it is unlikely that he will live for long but, given the crimes he committed, should he be freed? The opinion of this analyst is that he should not be.
Carlos is sometimes regarded as the “original” terrorist. Long before individuals like Osama bin Laden became household names, the Venezuelan terrorist rose to prominence thanks to his daring criminal operations in the 1970s and 1980s, which included aDecember 1975 raid at an OPEC meeting in Austria. He, his small commando group and his OPEC hostages then flew to Algiers, from which the criminals subsequently escaped thanks to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi. He claimed that he was fighting to combat the capitalist Western world, and for some time he was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but it has been argued that Ramirez was an opportunist and that he did not have an allegiance to any particular political ideology or movement. He was finally captured in Sudan in 1994 and then extradited to Paris, where he was sent to jail to fulfill a prison sentence for attacks that he orchestrated in France in the late 1970s to early 1980s. A good summary of Carlos’ life, criminal operations and arrest can be found in John Follain’s bookJackal: The Complete Story of the Legendary Terrorist, Carlos the Jackal.
The question now becomes, does Carlos deserve to receive a pardon and be freed from the French prison where he has spent almost the past two decades? As previously mentioned, he is of advanced age and fragile health, and it is highly unlikely that he would attempt to return to some kind of criminal activity. On the other hand, even though he is in prison solely due to criminal attacks that he carried out in France, he has also carried out plenty of other attacks for which he should have spent time in prison for as well. Realistically speaking, Carlos the Jackal will probably never be tried for other operations that he committed or masterminded, like the OPEC kidnappings or the 1974 bombing of the Drugstore Saint-Germain in the centre of Paris, which left two people dead. Hence, every day that he spends in his current prison is symbolically not just a punishment for the 1975 Paris murders or 1982 train bombings, but for his other crimes as well.
A Return to Venezuela?
For the sake of argument, we should hypothesize that, if Carlos is freed, what would he do? He is a Venezuelan citizen, so he could attempt to return to his homeland. This scenario is not as bizarre as it may sound. The late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, was a known supporter of Carlos andeven wrote him at least one letter– unsurprisingly the Venezuelan leader was critiqued for having done this by the French government. Interestingly, a high ranking Venezuelan government official declared in a media interview in September 2011 that “from a humane point of view we [the Venezuelan government] will continue to support him.” The official went on to declare that a possible return of Carlos to Venezuela was a “delicate issue […] that should be addressed carefully.” For the record, the Venezuelan official who made these declarations was the country’s new president,Nicolas Maduro. So far, Caracas has not made a statement regarding Carlos’ future, as Maduro probably has bigger concerns, such as addressing food shortages in the country and the governmental crisis due to the April 14 elections. Nevertheless, in recent developments, the Venezuelan government has not paid the fees for Carlos’ lawyers, so they cannot travel to Paris to help the terrorist with his new plea. In retaliation, Carlos lashed out against the Maduro government, declaring that he told his lawyers not to travel to Paris to help him, saying, “I will not allow my lawyers to ruin themselves for some well-positioned traitors in Venezuela.”
Ultimately, it is the belief of this author that Carlos the Jackal should continue to be in prison for the crimes he committed throughout his nefarious career, not just because of the French murders. If this means that he spend his last days imprisoned, then so be it. One can argue that he may have repented, but this author highly doubts it. It is not just about whether he will become a free man and recreate a terrorist movement, but the significance of freeing such an individual. Unrepentant global terrorists of Carlos’ caliber should not be freed.