Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Saturday, 21 November 2009

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez defends 'Carlos the Jackal'

Carlos the Jackal, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez
"Carlos" was jailed for life in France in 1997

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has defended jailed killer "Carlos the Jackal" and several world leaders he says are wrongly considered "bad guys".

In a speech to international socialist politicians, Mr Chavez said "Carlos", a Venezuelan, was not a terrorist but a key "revolutionary fighter".

He is serving a life sentence in France for murders committed in 1975.

Mr Chavez also hailed Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.

'Great nationalist'

Carlos, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, gained international notoriety in the 1970s as a mastermind of deadly bombings, assassinations and hostage-takings.

He was captured in Sudan in 1994 and handed over to France, where he was jailed for killing two French intelligence officers and an alleged informer in 1975.

In his speech late on Friday in Caracas, Mr Chavez said: "I defend him. It doesn't matter to me what they say tomorrow in Europe."

He said he believed Carlos had been unfairly convicted, and called him "one of the great fighters of the Palestine Liberation Organisation".

The Venezuelan leader has previously called Carlos a friend, and is reported to have exchanged letters with him in the past.

In his speech, Mr Chavez also described Presidents Mugabe and Ahmadinejad - who like Mr Chavez are strong critics of the US - as brothers.

About former Ugandan President Idi Amin, Mr Chavez said: "We thought he was a cannibal... I don't know, maybe he was a great nationalist, a patriot."

Idi Amin seized power in 1971. About 300,000 people were killed during his eight-year rule.

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