Venezuela is actively supporting Carlos the Jackal, one of the world's most notorious terrorists, while he sits in a French prison, a top Venezuelan official said.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said on state television Wednesday that the country is providing "permanent contacts to support" the Cold War-era radical "from a human point of view".
Maduro did not elaborate on exactly what kind of support the country was providing but said Carlos, a Venezuelan native whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, faces "very difficult circumstances in France."
Carlos, now 61 years old, is serving a life sentence in France for the murder of two French agents and another person in 1975. Carlos rocketed to international infamy the same year as the murders for a highly-publicized terror attack on a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in which he, along with several accomplices, allegedly took 11 high-powered hostages and reportedly got away with millions of dollars in ransom.
For nearly two decades afterwards, Carlos was able to elude a massive, international manhunt while allegedly planning and carrying out a string of bombings in Europe that killed at least a dozen people.
He was finally captured in 1994 in Khartoum, Sudan, and taken back to France for trial. Carlos later argued that his dramatic capture and extradition -- one of the first highly-publicized incidents of "rendition" -- was illegal, but the European Court of Human Rights upheld the action.
According to the ECHR, Carlos was held in solitary confinement for more than eight years for his "dangerousness, the need to maintain order and security in the prison and the risk of him absconding." From jail, Carlos claimed that his operations had killed up to 2,000 people, the ECHR said. In a recent interview with a Swedish news station from jail, the Jackal reflected on the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, saying the terror leader was a "martyr".
While Carlos sat in his cell, his legend grew outside the prison walls. Numerous books and movies have featured a sometimes-romanticized version of the convicted killer, most recently a highly-praised French mini-series called "Carlos".
In 2009, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised Carlos as a "revolutionary fighter." In the past, Venezuela's communist party has pressured the government to try to free Carlos from the French prison and bring him back home.
"They're delicate issues that must be dealt with, let's say, carefully," Maduro said.