By Chine Labbé
PARIS (Reuters) - A French court sent Carlos the Jackal, once one of the world's most wanted criminals, back to jail for his third life sentence on Tuesday after convicting him of a grenade attack 42 years ago on a Paris shop that killed two people.
The Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, is already serving two life sentences in France for deadly attacks in the 1970s and 1980s.
The 67-year-old Ramirez, white-haired now, denounced the trial as "absurd" in a statement before the verdict.
"I am being prosecuted for completely phoney matters," Ramirez, who wore a dark jacket and jeans, told the judges. "It is up to you to defend France, to defend the interests of the French people," he said.
Ramirez was charged with murder over the Sept. 15, 1974 grenade attack on the Publicis drugstore in central Paris, which also injured 34 people. He denied involvement.
His lawyers had urged the special Paris court to acquit him but the panel of five judges found him guilty after four hours of deliberation and handed down the life sentence requested by prosecutors. There is no jury in French terrorism trials.
Defense lawyers, alleging heavy media coverage had influenced the judges, said they would appeal. "The judges didn't dare to acquit Carlos," lawyer Francis Vuillemin said outside the court room.
Throughout the two-week trial, Ramirez's lawyers repeatedly attacked the absence of many witnesses and the decision to hold the trial more than 40 years after the events.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Marxist militant and self-dubbed "elite gunman" became a symbol of Cold War anti-imperialism and public enemy number one for Western governments.
He sealed his notoriety in 1975 with the hostage-taking of OPEC oil ministers in Vienna in the name of the Palestinian struggle, and went on to become an international gun-for-hire with Soviet bloc protectors.
At the start of the trial, Ramirez, who has been held in France for 23 years since being captured in Khartoum by French special forces, called himself a "professional revolutionary".
The two life sentences he is already serving in France are for the murder of two French police officers and an informant in June 1975 and for a series of attacks on trains, a train station and a Paris street in 1982 and 1983 that killed 11 people and wounded about 150 more.
The press gave him his nickname after a reporter saw a copy of Frederick Forsyth's "The Day of the Jackal" at Ramirez's London flat and mistakenly assumed it belonged to him.
Investigators said the U.S.-made hand grenade used in the Paris shop attack came from the same batch as a grenade found in a Paris apartment used by Ramirez and from the same batch as three grenades used in an attack on the French Embassy in The Hague by the Japanese Red Army militant group two days previously.
(Writing by Adrian Croft; Editing by Richard Balmforth)