Carlos the Jackal was once a "worthy" fighter for revolutionary causes, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez has said in urging France to respect the legal rights of a man regarded by Western governments as a terrorist killer.
Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, 62 — dubbed "Carlos the Jackal" for his Cold War activities — went on trial in France on Monday accused over four attacks in Paris in the 1980s that killed 11 people and wounded more than 100.
(GlobalPost reports: Carlos the Jackal, feared Cold War terrorist, goes on trial in France (VIDEO)
Chavez, who has previously said he does not view Ramirez as a terrorist, is quoted by The Associated Press as saying:
"We cannot allow any Venezuelan, accused of anything, to be abused in any part of the world. We have a responsibility and we are obliged to uphold it."
Ramirez — a former member of the leftist Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine and also linked to extreme-left European terror groups — is serving a life sentence in France, after being convicted in 1997 for the shooting deaths of two French secret agents and a Lebanese informant in 1975.
He first made world headlines in 1975, after he and a group of gunmen burst into a OPEC meeting in Vienna and taking 11 oil ministers hostage.
According to CNN, he was nicknamed "Carlos the Jackal" by the press in reference to the principal character and assassin in Frederick Forsyth's novel "The Day of the Jackal."
Chavez has criticized the jailing of Ramirez as unfair, and said French agents violated international law when they captured him in Sudan in 1994 after years on the run, according to Reuters.
Chavez, who projects himself as a leader of a global "anti-imperialist" movement, has courted controversy in the past by supporting global strongmen such as Libya's late Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
He even once suggested one of Africa's bloodiest despots, Idi Amin, may have been unfairly portrayed and could have been a "great nationalist, a patriot."