Carlos the Jackal ally acquitted of French blasts

23rd August 2004, Comments 0 comments

BERLIN, Aug 23 (AFP) - Citing insufficient evidence, a German court on Monday acquitted an alleged lieutenant of Carlos the Jackal - legendary international terrorist mastermind through two decades - of murder and bomb attacks in France in the early 1980s.

BERLIN, Aug 23 (AFP) - Citing insufficient evidence, a German court on Monday acquitted an alleged lieutenant of Carlos the Jackal - legendary international terrorist mastermind through two decades - of murder and bomb attacks in France in the early 1980s.

Presiding judge Ralph Ehestaedt said there was not enough evidence to link Johannes Weinrich, 57, to three attacks in France in 1982-83.

"The court was not able to establish with certainty that the accused directly or indirectly participated in the attacks in France for which he was charged," the judge said.

Weinrich, already serving a life sentence for other offences, was said to have been Carlos' deputy at the head of groups known as the International Revolutionary Organisation and the Organisation of Armed Arab Resistance.

His alleged master, the mysterious Venezuelan Ilich Ramirez Sanchez - better known as Carlos the Jackal - led spectacular extremist operations in the 1970s and 1980s including the 1975 Vienna kidnapping of oil ministers at an OPEC meeting.

But the mystery surrounding Carlos and his invincibility myth ended 10 years ago when French undercover agents seized him in Sudan. He is now 54 and doing life in French solitary confinement after being convicted of a triple murder committed in Paris in 1975.

Weinrich's lawyer asked the Berlin court to acquit him citing flaws in the legal procedure while the public prosecutor wanted life imprisonment.

During Weinrich's trial, the prosecution maintained he had been deputy to Carlos at the head of the two named extremist groups, and as such he was alleged to have organised three attacks in France.

But Ehestaedt said evidence submitted was insufficient to find Weinrich guilty of the attacks that caused carnage in Paris, Marseille and Tain-l'Hermitage in southeast France.

He admitted that his ruling was likely to displease the victims of the attacks and their families but insisted he could not hand down a guilty verdict based on the evidence presented. He also criticised French authorities for submitting documents to the court that were incomplete.

The charges against Weinrich related to a 1982 car bomb explosion outside the Paris offices of the Arabic-language Watan al-Arabi newspaper in which a passer-by was killed.

The prosecutor's office said Syrian intelligence agents were involved in the attack which aimed to kill the editor and destroy the building.

In 1983 two bombs went off within 20 minutes from each other, one at Marseille's main train station and the other in a high-speed train at Tain-l'Hermitage, killing five people.

Weinrich was arrested in Yemen in 1994 and deported to Germany the following year.

He is serving a life sentence in Germany for an attack on the French cultural centre in West Berlin in 1983 which killed one person and left 23 injured.

The court had postponed the Weinrich verdict in order to hear testimony from Carlos via video link. But Carlos refused.

Carlos, believed to have been the inspiration for Frederick Forsyth's best-selling novel "The Day of the Jackal" filmed in 1973, is allowed jail visits only from his lawyers and a French priest.

Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, the French lawyer that Carlos married after his conviction, on Monday praised Weinrich's acquittal.

"I am happy to see that the German justice system has shown an independence which French magistrates should envy. Once again, this shows that political charges don't hold up in court," she told AFP.

In an interview conducted by telephone with French television channel M6 in March, Carlos refused to express remorse for his crimes and said: "There are no innocent victims".

He also said he admired Osama bin Laden, leader of the Al-Qaeda network blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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