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Last Updated: Sunday, 28 March, 2004, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Saddam trial 'will not be fair'
Jacques Verges
Mr Verges made his name by taking on notorious clients
A controversial French lawyer appointed by Saddam Hussein to defend him has said a fair trial would be impossible.

Jacques Verges, who made his reputation defending some of the world's most notorious figures, told the BBC he feared for the ex-Iraqi leader's life.

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

He says Saddam Hussein's nephew wrote to him enlisting his services.

Mr Verges 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.

Secret location

In an interview with BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend, Mr Verges said it was unjust that no formal charges had been presented, so that Saddam Hussein knew neither what he was accused of, nor where he would stand trial.

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.

Mr Verges has not met Saddam Hussein and does not know where he is being held, but he told the BBC he believed the Iraqi leader had been drugged by coalition forces and that he was likely to be killed before he came to trial.

He said that if a case did begin, US leaders should be in the dock as well.

When asked why he had spent his career defending notorious figures, Mr Verges said it was his job.

"In a democracy, everybody has a right to be defended and in a democracy, nobody can be called guilty before a judgement by a fair court," he said.


Although it is still unclear what exact form Saddam Hussein's trial will take, 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, pictured shaved after his arrest
Klaus Barbie
Carlos the Jackal
Says he acted for Slobodan Milosevic in 2002
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 against Israel and neo-Nazi bombers and he leapt at the chance to expose what he saw as establishment hypocrisy at the trial of Klaus Barbie.

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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