Carlos the Jackal Says Covert Swiss Deal Protected PLO Activists

Symbol of Cold War anti-imperialism says it was open secret among PLO militants that they would not be arrested in Switzerland under a 'non-aggression pact.'

Michael Shields
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Venezuelan Carlos the Jackal, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, sits in a Paris courtroom November 28, 2000.
Venezuelan Carlos the Jackal, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, sits in a Paris courtroom November 28, 2000.Credit: AP
Michael Shields

REUTERS - Carlos the Jackal, the Marxist guerrilla who became a symbol of Cold War anti-imperialism, has told a newspaper that he moved freely through Switzerland in the 1970s under a "non-aggression pact" between the government and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

He felt so safe that he flew to Zurich rather than Vienna airport on his way to neighboring Austria for his most spectacular coup: the kidnapping of oil ministers at OPEC headquarters in 1975, he told the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) in a telephone interview from his prison in France.

His comments, published on Monday, seem sure to inflame a debate about whether Swiss authorities secretly agreed to turn a blind eye to PLO activity in the 1970s and give it diplomatic support in exchange for an end to attacks on Swiss targets.

The NZZ said it had made contact with the 66-year-old Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, through his lawyer. Ramirez is serving life sentences in France for a series of attacks.

He told the paper it had been common knowledge among PLO militants that they would not be arrested in Switzerland, on condition was that they refrained from making trouble. "Of course we stuck to that," he said.

He recalled seeing a wanted poster with his picture on it in the guard's booth as he stood in line for passport checks after flying into Zurich from Beirut on his way to Vienna, only to be waved through with his fake South American passport.

Ramirez sealed his notoriety by taking OPEC's oil ministers hostage in the name of the Palestinian struggle, in an attack in which three people were killed, and went on to be an international gun-for-hire with Soviet bloc protectors.

But the revolutionary mystique he once enjoyed - helped by a Che Guevara beret, leather jacket and dark glasses - wore thin after he was captured in Khartoum in 1994 by French Special Forces.

Switzerland last month began looking into whether a former government minister, now dead, had struck a covert deal with the PLO.

The allegation emerged this year in a book by Swiss journalist Marcel Gyr, who conducted the NZZ interview. The book, "Swiss Terror Years", has also raised questions about whether such a pact interfered with an investigation into the bombing of a Swissair plane in 1970 that killed 47 people, for which no one was ever charged.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage