NEWS

Magdalena Kopp’s life with The Jackal

It was not easy to get near Magdalena Kopp, who is still the wife of the notorious terrorist Carlos, alias «The Jackal.» Kopp is in a witness protection program, and our meeting took place soon after the first round of arrests of November 17 suspects. Kopp, who has withdrawn from terrorist activity, said she was preparing to write her autobiography. She wants the book to be a settling of accounts with her own husband, with whom she traveled to Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Kopp had a daughter with Carlos in order to avoid involvement in active terrorism. Their marriage was announced much later, in 1991, in Lebanon at the Venezuelan Embassy, when Carlos was already eyeing someone else. Speaking for the first time to the Greek media, Kopp made special reference to Bruno Breguet, a Swiss terrorist from the group who disappeared in 1995 while traveling from the Italian port of Ancona to Greece. She also mentioned the mysterious letters from Breguet when she herself was in Venezuela, shortly before Carlos was arrested in Sudan, and Johannes Weinrich in Yemen. Kopp does not want to believe allegations that Breguet is a double agent, nor is she willing to speak about Greek terrorists. She says she vaguely remembers a Philippe, a cadre of Greece’s Revolutionary People’s Struggle (ELA) who closely worked with Carlos’s group and trained at military camps in Lebanon. She has heard of George, referred to in handwritten notes by Weinrich on the attack against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in 1983 in Athens, but does not want to say any more. Nor is her memory any better when talking to the Greek prosecutor, Yiannis Diotis. She thinks Carlos is crazy, a megalomaniac, even now that he is in prison. She is saving the best things about him for her own autobiography. Unlikely figure Her large brown eyes are the first thing one notices about this slim, fragile woman. Her black hair has grown since the photograph taken in Damascus with her daughter. This, then, is the wife of the notorious Carlos, the greatest terrorist of all time before September 11, who was both hunted and «protected» by secret services. It is impossible to believe that the petite Magdalena Kopp, alias Vera or Lili, learned the «art of death» at a military camp in southern Yemen under very difficult conditions. Her life reads like a novel. To please her lover, Johannes Weinrich, who later became Carlos’ right-hand man, she abandoned her five-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, Anna. In Yemen she met Carlos, or Johnny as his comrades then called him, but her attraction to the Jackal was not mutual at first. «It was not love at first sight,» Kopp says today. The ice broke in Algiers in 1977, where she had gone to meet Weinrich, whom she refers to as «Hannes.» Carlos had no qualms about flirting with her in front of her lover. After Wadi Hadad’s death in 1978, the Jackal founded his own terrorist group, the Organization of International Revolutionaries. Weinrich became head of its European section. Kopp by now was the companion of Carlos. «Better with number one than with number two,» she said ingenuously. Our first meeting was at the Ulm railway station in December 1995, when she was welcomed home by her aged mother Rosina. After 15 years traveling, Kopp had decided to return to Germany from Venezuela under a witness protection program. Her life in Caracas with Carlos’s family had become insufferable, and she had no money. Contacts with the German Constitutional Protection Service were in progress, when on March 9, 1975, she received a mysterious letter from Bruno Breguet. It was also his last. «I met N. (Nabil Darbali, the group’s financial director) many times in Switzerland and I know that Weinrich is badly in need of money. In order to help him you have to send me his address.» Kopp was also surprised by the return address (Hans Zoli, Blaustrasse 27, Berlin). Hans was part of Weinrich’s first name. Zoli was unknown. She also wondered about the Berlin address, while it was clear that the letter had been sent from Switzerland. Did Breguet know that the Berlin prosecutor wanted to get at Weinrich, after the French arrested Carlos in Sudan in August 1994? The rest of the letter was just as much of a mystery. «You can only find me through my mother. Because of past events I have moved and left everything to Paul (his son). I have ceased to exist,» wrote Breguet. A few months later Weinrich was arrested in Yemen, and Breguet disappeared off a passenger ferry en route from Igoumenitsa to Corfu. There are conflicting rumors regarding his disappearance. The German authorities believe he is in hiding because of the evidence against him in Stasi files. His family believe, among other things, that Breguet was abducted by the French secret service. Others believe that he was a double agent from the outset and that now he is living somewhere in the «enlarged Europe» under a new identity. Or else that someone got rid of him because he knew too much. At the restaurant, the wine sharpens Kopp’s memory. She speaks of Breguet with emotion and does not believe for a minute that he is dead, nor that he was a double agent. «Bruno loves life, his children, his family. He liked the life in Greece. He believed in the struggle,» she said. Kopp has clear memories of Breguet’s last letter but one, which she received in Venezuela in August 1994, the day before Carlos was arrested. «It is sad, but I am afraid that the situation will soon become worse. They don’t realize it and continue to make mistakes…. As far as I am concerned, they have decided to become partners of F., my eternal enemy. Very soon I will have to take a decisive step, because it is now impossible to make any more compromises,» he wrote. Most mysterious of all was the name and the address of the writer: Fritz Kopp (the name of Kopp’s late father), Avenue de la Grande Armee, Fresnes, France. This was the area where Breguet had been imprisoned for four years. Carlos’s arrest and that of Weinrich a year later made it pointless for Kopp to remain in Venezuela. The deal with the German Constitutional Protection Program took some months to conclude. The Germans wanted first-hand information on the Organization of International Revolutionaries. They wanted Kopp to be a witness at Carlos’s trial in Paris, and Weinrich’s in Berlin, and at that of Hans Joachim Klein in Frankfurt and other alleged terrorists in Europe. Today German officials believe that Kopp did not «cooperate» with them as much as they would have liked. «I am not a traitor, I did not say anything that would cause anyone harm,» she replies to those who accuse her of selling out on her comrades. Link with ELA Kopp talks a lot but knows how far she can go. She is interested in developments in Greece, and the arrests of the alleged members of the November 17 group. The bomb attack on the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Athens on April 13, 1983 occurred when she was in a French prison. Nearly a year previously she had been arrested in Paris with Bruno Breguet and sentenced to prison for possessing explosive material. She was released on May 4, 1985. She knows of the existence of ELA, and that the group worked with Johannes Weinrich, but nothing more specific than that. She hesitates when talking about Philippe, the pseudonym used by the Greek who allegedly wrote the proclamation with which ELA assumed responsibility for the failed bomb attempt against the Saudi Arabian ambassador. She remembers meeting him in 1985 in Damascus; it was his untidy appearance that made an impression on her. She had heard of the person known as George, but does not know if he was the person who pressed the button on the defective explosive device. Kopp also claims not to know Bruno Riviera, a Palestinian with an Italian passport who had rented the car used in the attack. «How often has the Greek counter-terrorism prosecutor, Mr Diotis, interrogated you?» we asked. «Which one is he, the one with or or the one without the moustache?» she replied. Diotis last questioned her in Berlin last May, but found her hostile. Nothing has changed despite his assurance that her testimony would only be given in writing and that she would not be called to give testimony in court in person. The Greek prosecutor showed her photographs of Riviera, found in the Stasi files and accessible to the Greek police, as well as more recent photographs of other alleged terrorists. Kopp hardly recognized anyone. Not even a Greek known as Mallios, whose name is in Stasi files in a reference to a bank account in Kopp’s name in Bucharest. This time she may be right. Carlos was referred to as Mallios frequently in the Stasi files. On the other hand, Kopp does remember a Romanian of Greek origin known as Stefanos, a member of the Romanian secret service, whom she had been friendly with. He had helped her open a bank account at the Romanian National Bank under the pseudonym of Lili Kramer. Some German police officials claim that he is the agent Andre Nisescu. According to handwritten notes by Weinrich in 1982, Andre supplied him with the explosive material Rx Nr 60, which ELA used unsuccessfully against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in 1983. As Weinrich himself admits, he was «in a very bad state.» Shortly before Kopp’s arrest in Paris, Andre, alias Stefanos, tried to obtain a power of attorney from her in order to withdraw money from her account. Trial in Germany As Kopp relates these events, she smokes incessantly, shaking her head vehemently at the comment that Carlos must have loved her a great deal to start bombing French targets in order to have her freed. «Do you think so? You are wrong,» she said, speaking disparagingly of Carlos. «That Carlos is crazy, he has absolutely no moral compunctions. He sends Weinrich letters from prison calling him a pioneer of Palestinian independence, a hero of the revolution. He is laughing at him,» she said. She feels differently about Weinrich and does not even want to think about the time when they might meet again in Berlin after 10 whole years, when he goes on trial in late February or early March for the bomb attacks by Carlos’s group in France and against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Athens. The trial is expected to last more than two years and cost «as much as 100 kilometers of autobahn,» as a German court official said. Greek officials will also be greatly interested in the trial. Diotis already has the bill of indictment in his hands and the Germans are expecting police officers, experts and eyewitnesses to come from Greece to testify for the prosecution regarding the failed ELA attack. ‘Fortunately I didn’t have to kill anyone’ Asked how all her years on the run have affected her, Kopp shakes her head. She has lived in many countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa with Carlos, through both good and bad times. «It has been an interesting life. Fortunately I never had to kill anyone,» she said laconically. Since December 1995 she has lived in Neu Ulm with her daughter Rosa in an apartment house for the disadvantaged. Her mother has died and she lives worlds apart from her sister. She worked for a while in a camera shop but is currently unemployed and lives on state benefits. Nothing moves her, nothing surprises her any more. She smiles vaguely at the idea that she has grandchildren, by her eldest daughter. She has many dreams for her second daughter, who bears a striking resemblance to her father, Carlos. «I will not cut her off from her father or her relatives in Venezuela, I do not have that right. But I will not allow her to make the same mistakes,» she says categorically, like any other mother. She then refers to writing her autobiography, perhaps as a desperate attempt at catharsis. She says goodbye at the entrance to Ulm railway station. «I might visit you in Athens, that is if I’m not at risk of being arrested by your prosecutor, what’s his name…?»