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[Interview] Webmaster for 'Carlos the Jackal'
Palestinian leads campaign to repatriate Ilich Ramirez to Venezuela
Marcelo Mackinnon (pelarco)     Print Article 
Published 2008-02-06 11:58 (KST)   
In December 2007, while browsing through the net I discovered that Ilich Ramirez (aka Carlos or "The Jackal"), has a blog where he has a chance to give his opinions while still imprisoned in France for the bombing of the OPEC headquarters in Vienna in 1975, in which three people died.

A young Palestinian called Muhammad Abdallah (1) runs the blog on behalf of the "Venezuelan Committee for the Repatriation of Ilich Ramirez" and whose director is Vladimir Ramirez (2). Ilich Ramirez was abducted in 1994 from Khartoum, Sudan by agents of the French Secret Service and taken to France's maximum-security jail at Clairvaux (3) near the north east border with Germany. Ilich Ramirez has already been sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment, but even so continues to face constant physical and psychological aggressions by prison guards and other inmates.

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The latest incident occurred on Dec. 26, 2007, when another inmate attacked the Venezuelan while several prison guards looked on without intervening. In this interview Muhammad Abdallah explains the current situation of Ilich Ramirez inside the prison and what steps are being taken by the Committee to obtain his liberation.

Muhammad, since when have you been the webmaster of Ilichramirez.blogspot.com?

Muhammad Abdallah: From the beginning. In fact it may sound pretentious on my behalf, but I consider myself responsible not only for creating the first authentic web page about Ilich, but also for the creation of the current "Committee for the Repatriation of Commander Carlos to Venezuela" (there was a first committee formed in 1991). A couple of years ago there were some sporadic initiatives to reinvigorate Ilich's struggle sponsored by the Ramirez family along with Palestinian and Venezuelan comrades.

However I always noticed that they had no contact between each other and so I reunited Vladimir Ramirez with Ligia Rojas (Ilich's first schoolteacher) and childhood friends such as Jeronimo Carreras (4) and J.R Castillo (5). They decided to form the Committee, and the blog is tremendously important since people from all over the world that are interested in Ilich's case can find information about him. One of the main objectives of the blog is to deny the many lies that have been published about Commander Carlos during the past 30 years. I make copies and translate of videos or programs aired by Al Jazeera, as well as all the articles and books published about Ilich and whenever I go to Palestine I distribute this material among youngsters.

Muhammad, have you ever met Ilich in person?

Unfortunately, due my age, I was unable to meet Ilich, but I have had telephone conversations and received some letters from him. However I hope that when we obtain his repatriation to Venezuela we will meet personally. I do know his work and struggle for Palestine and I try to continue with his example of international solidarity, even more so now that Palestine is dying as the world watches without intervening. My blog acts as a loudspeaker that conveys Ilich's opinion to Venezuela, Palestine and the whole world.

On Dec. 28, 2007, some French citizens that had been arrested and tried in Chad (Africa) were repatriated and allowed to carry out their sentence in France. What is your opinion regarding this situation? Why can't the same be done in Ilich's case?

You said it, brother. The law should be applied in equal terms to all but obviously a figure such as Ilich Ramirez cannot be compared to an NGO like the Ark of Zoe (6) that poses no threat to any superpower. But this is not the case with Ilich.

Ilich, like Che Guevara, Al Khattab (7) or Tanja Nijmeijer (8), is more than just a guerrilla fighter that went to fight for the freedom of a country that was not his own. Ilich is a legend that knows many names and secrets of international politics throughout the 1970s and 1980s, and this is why he was kept in solitary confinement for so many years. In fact this latest attack, was just a trap to force him to fight with the other inmate, for which he would have been punished and sent back to solitary confinement, thus avoiding that he make further statements in my blog.

Also, don't forget that the French Secret Service abducted Ilich from Sudan in an illegal operation, not to mention the sham trial where he ended up being convicted twice to life sentences without any real proof that he was involved in those cases.

Exactly what is Ilich's prison status in France? Is he considered a war prisoner or political prisoner?

Of course Ilich is a political prisoner despite being abducted and being for so many years in solitary confinement, without even being able to meet with his lawyers. Ilich has been jailed next to common criminals, drug traffickers, rapists and psychopaths maybe in an attempt that, like a few days ago, someone will murder him at the jail before being repatriated to Venezuela. This is why it is so important to inform President Hugo Chavez so that his government can take urgent action regarding Ilich占좑엠s case.

What is Ilich's routine at Clairvaux prison? How many hours a day is he locked up?

His routine at the jail is the same as the other maximum-security prisoners. Worst of all is what happens when he has to be transferred to Paris during trials. Ilich must make the 300-kilometer trip inside a metal cage, with chains in his hands and feet, just like an animal.

At 58 years of age and with his physical corpulence, Ilich must remain inside this metal cage that is quite small for seven to eight hours without drinking water or going to the toilet. However these transfers are not happening at present and so his lawyers cannot defend him.

Does Ilich have regular access to press, radio, television or the Internet?

We send him our statements and he receives some newspapers and books, that are all previously censored by the prison guards, but he has no access to the Internet. It is his wife and lawyer Isabelle Coutant that sends me Ilich's declarations and suggestions via email that I later upload to the blog. Until recently he could make phone calls once a week, but not to whomever he wanted. Ilich can only phone those numbers authorized by the Prison warden, such as that of his brother Vladimir.

Even so, Ilich has had problems lately since his telephone conversations are recorded and on many occasions we have heard sound interference or interruptions during the calls. We believe that the French Secret Service have caused this interference and have made our communication totally impossible.

How often can he have contact with his relatives and friends?

That is another good question. For more than 13 years Ilich has not been allowed visits or contact with anyone. It is illegal, immoral and inhuman to keep a person isolated for such a long time. Also his brothers and mother are unable to visit Ilich as they have received death threats and will be in serious danger in case they go to France.

In fact no one can visit him, his only contact with his family is via telephone and also Ilich has never received any legal or financial assistance from the Venezuelan government as he is entitled to receive. We work in the Committee voluntarily and all the legal costs have been met by his family and with donations by his friends.

In order to phone his relatives Ilich must use very expensive call cards so I have insisted with the Committee that a bank account be opened to receive donations in order to pay for his legal assistance and medicine. Ilich became a stress diabetic while in prison in France and the harsh conditions at Clairvaux Prison can only worsen his illness.

What has been the Venezuelan government's attitude towards Ilich's case?

Recently I uploaded at the blog an audio recording of the "Alo Presidente" radio program where President Hugo Chavez once more speaks with sympathy and affection of Ilich Ramirez. However he is the only member of the government that has the courage to do so. We (the committee) have spoken on many occasions with Venezuelan ambassadors and consuls from different countries, for example that of Spain, but they all see Ilich's case as uncomfortable and dangerous.

Very recently I also published in the blog a statement by Ilich's wife and lawyer, Isabelle Coutant, where she describes the shameful behavior by Arnaldo Perez, the Venezuelan Ambassador in Paris.

Which Palestinian organization does Ilich support at present?

Ilich was invited to fight for Palestine in the early 1970s by Dr. George Habash (9) the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Ilich fought alongside famous fighters such as Layla Khaleb (10) that continues to struggle for Palestine and will write an article for my blog very soon. Sadly, whenever I go to Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus or the Gaza Strip and talk about Commander Carlos, most of the resistance fighters are too young to know his story and most of PFLP members that knew Ilich have died fighting against the Israelis. You can't imagine how much we need someone like Ilich Ramirez in the Gaza Strip at present.

What would be Ilich's opinion about the recent conferences between Mahmoud Abas (11), President George Bush and Israel?

Absolute nonsense. These are excuses so that the politicians, analysts and advisers continue to get rich and receive media exposure while we continue in agony. They have been meeting for 60 years and can continue to meet for another 60 years.

Nothing will change, Palestine will only be in peace when the Israeli occupation army stops arresting and torturing all children over 15, occupying Palestinian homes and property and giving it to Jewish colonizers. Also when Israel removes road checkpoints and restrictions to water and electricity, and brings down the wall of shame that divides entire families.

Surely only those of us that have lost relatives -- unarmed women and children -- during Israeli bombings can understand the generosity of a Venezuelan such as President Hugo Chavez that has promised solidarity with the Palestinians in the war against Israel.

Did Ilich ever meet Che Guevara?

No, because when Che Guevara was murdered Ilich had not even began studying at Patrice Lumumba University (12). However, if today Che Guevara could see his reflection in mirror, he would see Ilich and vice versa.

Brief glossary of names and places:

1) Muhammad Abdallah: A Venezuelan-Palestinian resistance fighter. Muhammad's wife was killed four years ago during an attack by the Israeli army on her hometown in Palestinian controlled territory. The Israeli army later described her death as the result of "collateral damage".

2) Ilich Ramirez has two younger brothers, Lenin and Vladimir.

3) Clairvaux Prison: Originally an abbey built in 1115 by a religious order in a mountainous area of Northeast France. Today it is the country's main Maximum-security prison. On January 16,2006, several inmates imprisoned with life sentences published a statement that described life at the prison as "a place where the death sentence has been replaced by a regime of slow and continuous punishment, every activity at the prison is planned to constantly mistreat prisoners."

4) Founder of the Venezuelan Communist Party

5) Artist and childhood friend of Ilich Ramirez.

6) French humanitarian NGO ("L'Arch de Zoe" in French).

7) Al Khatabb: Saudi Arabian fighter that took part in several wars as part of the 1st Muslim Battalion. Killed in 2003 in Chechnya.

8) Tanja Nijmeier: A Netherlands volunteer currently with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), an organization that has been at war with the government army for more than forty years.

9) Founder of the PFLP. Died in Jordan on January 26,2008 at the age of 80.

10) Layla Khaleb: Female member of the PFLP that took part in spectacular actions such as the 1968 hijacking of an El Al passenger aircraft that was en route from Rome to Tel Aviv. In 1969 she also successfully hijacked a TWA plane from Europe to Damascus, Syria.

11) Mahmoud Abas: Current president of the Palestinian National Authority.

12) Patrice Lumumba University: Located in Moscow, during the Soviet era became a center for the formation of Communist Party militants from all over the world.
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Marcelo Mackinnon

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