He was the superstar of international terrorism back when hostage takings and bombings were the anti-capitalists' tools of choice. Western spy agencies tracked him from one rogue state to another during the Cold War. His baby face, with its tinted aviator-style glasses, glowered from Wanted posters around the world.
Now plump and 62, with his fondness for silk ascots and Cuban cigars still intact, Carlos the Jackal is set to take to the stage again.
The Venezuelan native goes on trial in Paris on Monday in a seven-judge, special anti-terrorism court, charged with complicity in four bombings in France in the early 1980s that killed 11 people and wounded 140.
Carlos, born Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving a life sentence for the 1975 murders of two French police officers and a Lebanese informant. He has been in French prison for more than 17 years, ever since French agents acting on a tip from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency grabbed him from a Sudanese hospital, bundled him into a burlap bag and flew him to Paris.
The new trial, according to his lawyers, is a trumped-up and dusted-off affair meant only to prevent Carlos from having the chance to ask to be transferred to Venezuela to serve out his sentence.
"A delay of 30 years is absolutely unreasonable and violates European Union human rights law," said Françis Vuillemin, one of his lawyers. "And there's nothing in terms of evidence that is in the least admissible in a court of law."
The trial is expected to run for at least six weeks. Many of them will no doubt be taken up with extended legal arguments about the validity of thousands of pages of transcripts of covertly recorded conversations and photocopied documents unearthed from the Soviet-era files of Eastern European intelligence agencies.
But the centrepiece will be Carlos, a man of grand gestures who has made clear he intends to present himself as a political prisoner and reveal exploits he says have never been properly credited to him.
"I'm still feeling combative," he told Europe 1 radio last month.
The prospect of Carlos doing verbal battle with the judges does not bother his lawyer. "It's in his personality to say what he wants to say and to do what he wants to do," said Mr. Vuillemin. "He is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, this character that everyone knows. He lived his life and, as his lawyers, we're not there to stop him from talking about it. In any case, he wouldn't listen to us."
In his heyday, Carlos was the icon of leftwing revolutionaries. A Marxist who says he converted to Islam at the age of 26, he joined up with the Communist-supported Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine after being expelled from a Moscow university in the late 1960s.
"You don't choose revolution," he once wrote. "Revolution chooses you."
He first captured world attention as the ringleader of the audacious 1975 raid on a Vienna meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The oil ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran, along with dozens of others, were taken hostage to publicize the Palestinian cause. A multimillion-dollar ransom was eventually paid for their release. Carlos escaped.
He is the subject of dozens of books and a five and a half-hour film, first released in 2010, that was broadcast in France on the cultural channel last month.
Hans-Joachim Klein, one of his comrades in the OPEC raid, wrote in a memoir that Carlos was a "megalomaniacal murderer." Some biographers portray him as a bungler who never measured up to his reputation as the scourge of Western capitalism. Others describe him as an ideologue who became redundant after the Cold War ended and so recast himself a criminal-for-hire.
In prison, he has been studying philosophy, writing manifestos and sending off letters to world leaders. One of his friendliest pen pals was Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who shares his anti-American views and once personally lobbied the French to have Carlos removed from solitary confinement.
In a recent interview, though, Carlos complained that his Venezuelan connection no longer is coming through for him in the same way. The embassy used to send him Cuban cigars, but the deliveries stopped a few months ago.
In his voluminous writings from prison, published in 2003, he tried to place himself at the leading edge of the historical arc from Marxist to Muslim radicalism.
He ruminated on the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center, calling the office towers "the temple of financial speculation." He imagined writing to Osama bin Laden to congratulate him on his "magnificent struggle."
Terrorism, Carlos also wrote, continues because it works. "Well-managed, the image of destruction and death can decisively influence public opinion and weigh on the choices governments make in the long or short term," he wrote. "A few human lives sacrificed can save immeasurable suffering."