For rather than taking on a single cause, says TIME's Paris correspondent Bruce Crumley, "he was a roving terrorist who put his deadly skills up for hire."
Born Illich Ramirez Sanchez in Venezuela in 1949, the man later known as Carlos the Jackal was a red-diaper baby — hence Illich, Lenin’s middle name — sent by his wealthy communist parents to university in Moscow.
A self-styled "professional revolutionary," Carlos managed to evade Western security services for 21 years. The Jackal (so named by a journalist who found a copy of Fredrick Forsyth's "Day of the Jackal" in his abandoned bag) is alleged to have committed at least 20 spectacular terrorist attacks — and caused more than 80 deaths.
Having been flushed out of his traditional sanctuaries by the end of the Cold War, Carlos was nabbed by the French in the Sudan in 1994. He's charged with murdering two French security agents in 1975.
Crumley doesn't doubt he's going down. But, he adds, "what will fascinate people is the image of a terrorist with all these gadgets, who could shoot his way out of trouble, had access to the apartments of young women all over Europe, and who, despite being the most wanted man in the world, appeared to be able to move in and out of Western countries at will." The anti-James Bond, in other words.
While he won't win much sympathy, the quintessential celebrity-terrorist’s trial certainly won’t lack an audience.