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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 March, 2004, 14:27 GMT
French lawyer 'to defend Saddam'
Jacques Verges
Mr Verges made his name by taking on notorious clients
A French lawyer who made his reputation defending some of the world's most notorious figures says he will take on Saddam Hussein as his latest client.

In his long career, Jacques Verges defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal.

Mr Verges says the request came in a letter from Saddam Hussein's nephew, Ali Barzan al-Takriti.

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

He will be supported by a dozen other French lawyers to mount a defence case.

Mr Tikriti sent the following message to Mr Verges: "In my capacity as nephew of President Saddam Hussein, I commission you officially via this letter to assure the defence of my uncle".

It is not yet clear what charges Saddam Hussein will answer or what exact form his trial will take, but it is looking increasingly likely that he will be tried in Iraq, says BBC News Online's Kathryn Westcott.

The US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council in Baghdad is setting up a war crimes tribunal to try him on charges which may include genocide and crimes against humanity.

Saddam Hussein has been held at a secret Iraqi location since his capture in December and little has been heard from him since.

He was visited in February by the Red Cross, which is responsible for overseeing the treatment of prisoners of war worldwide.

'Fierce'

VERGES' FAMOUS CHARGES
Saddam Hussein, pictured shaved after his arrest
Klaus Barbie
Carlos the Jackal
Slobodan Milosevic
Saddam Hussein

It comes as no surprise to those who have followed Mr Verges' 50-year career as a defence lawyer that he should take on so controversial and difficult a case, as he has made a lifetime profession of fighting unpopular battles, Hugh Schofield reports from Paris.

Mr Verges, now 79, 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.

In World War II, he joined General Charles de Gaulle's Free French forces, but later he became a Communist.

During the Algerian war of independence he defended Algerians accused of terrorism against France, and married one of his clients who was jailed for planting bombs in cafes in Algiers.

Later, in the 1970s, he became the champion of extremists from both left and right, defending Palestinian violence but also neo-Nazis and he leapt at the chance to expose what he saw as establishment hypocrisy at the trial of Klaus Barbie.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Mr Verges has a reputation for challenging the orthodox view about the defendants he takes on"



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