President Hugo Chavez said Monday that his government will insist the rights of Carlos the Jackal be respected during his trial in France on charges of instigating four deadly attacks nearly three decades ago.
Chavez has previously praised the Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, as a "revolutionary fighter" and has said he doesn't view him as a terrorist.
"We cannot allow any Venezuelan, accused of anything, to be abused in any part of the world," Chavez told reporters at the presidential palace. "We have a responsibility and we are obliged to uphold it."
Ramirez, 62, went before a Paris court on terrorism-linked charges Monday. The Venezuelan is charged with instigating four attacks in 1982 and 1983 that killed 11 people and injured more than 140 others in France. He has denied any role in the attacks.
Ramirez is already serving a life sentence handed down for a triple murder committed in 1975.
Chavez said he has instructed Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, to contact Ramirez and his lawyers to discuss the case.
The leftist president did not elaborate on his government's plans, but he said he has "a personal interest" in the case.
Chavez called Ramirez "a dignified bearer of the biggest struggles," referring to his links to causes like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Ramirez gained notoriety as an alleged mastermind of attacks and hostage dramas in Europe and the Middle East during the Cold War.
French secret agents snatched him from his refuge in Sudan in 1994. Chavez called the capture an illegal kidnapping.
Chavez spoke shortly after dozens of Ramirez's supporters protested in a Caracas plaza, chanting: "He's not a terrorist! He's a communist!"
The demonstrators, including Venezuelan Communist Party activists, held signs reading "Freedom for Carlos."
Ramirez's younger brother Vladimir Ramirez led the protest, saying he doesn't expect a fair trial.
"A trial isn't beginning today," he told the crowd. "It's simply an official ceremony to finally slap Ilich with 30 more years of prison ... and condemn him to die imprisoned."
Associated Press writer Ian James contributed to this report.
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