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Last Updated: Monday, 29 March, 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Jacques Verges: 'The Devil's advocate'
Jacques Verges
Verges made his name by taking on notorious clients
The French lawyer set to defend Saddam Hussein at his trial has forged his reputation at the side of some of the world's most notorious figures.

In his long career, Jacques Verges has acted for Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal, and says he has represented former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

Mr Verges, 79, is said to have been a friend of Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader behind Cambodia's genocide.

His controversial career has earned him the nickname 'the Devil's advocate'.

Mr Verges says he will also defend former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.


He agreed to act on Saddam Hussein's behalf even before the details of the trial - such as the date, the charges, and even where it will be held - have been set.

The charges could include genocide and crimes against humanity.

The BBC's Hugh Schofield says it comes as no surprise to those who have followed Mr Verges' 50-year career that he should take on so controversial and difficult a client, as he has made a lifetime profession of fighting unpopular battles.

Mr Verges was born in Thailand to a French father and a Vietnamese mother, and grew up on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, where he is said to have acquired his fiercely anti-colonialist views, our correspondent says.

Klaus Barbie
Klaus Barbie
Carlos the Jackal
Says he represented Slobodan Milosevic in 2002
Saddam Hussein

In World War II, he earned a reputation as a war hero with General Charles de Gaulle's Free French resistance, but later he became a Communist.

During the Algerian war of independence, he defended Algerians accused of terrorism against France.

One of his clients was Djamila Bouhired, who was sentenced to death in 1957 for planting bombs in cafes in Algiers.

He managed to have her sentenced commuted, and married her when she was released in 1962.

Later, in the 1970s, he became the champion of extremists from both left and right, defending Palestinian violence against Israel and neo-Nazi bombers.

When offered the 1987 case of Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo chief known as the Butcher of Lyons, he leapt at the chance to expose what he saw as establishment hypocrisy.

But he could not prevent Barbie's life imprisonment on 341 charges, which included deporting Jewish children to concentration camps.

Carlos the Jackal

Illich Ramirez Sanchez, the Venezuelan who became known as Carlos the Jackal after making a career out of bombings, kidnappings and hijackings, was another client.

He was sentenced to life in jail in 1997 for killing two French secret agents and a Lebanese revolutionary in 1975.

Mr Verges says he was involved in a law suit brought by Slobodan Milosevic at the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 challenging his detention by the Netherlands to face war crimes charges at The Hague.

Some have questioned whether having such a reputation helps or undermines Mr Verges' clients' cause.

Some Iraqis said the fact that Saddam Hussein will be defended by Jacques Verges proved his guilt.

He "has always defended gang leaders and Saddam is one of them," said Nureddin Dara, a Kurdish judge who is also a member of Iraq's US-appointed interim Governing Council.

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