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Jacques Verges, Famed Lawyer Who 'Would Have Defended Hitler,' Dies

Image: Jacques Verges, Famed Lawyer Who 'Would Have Defended Hitler,' Dies

By    |   Friday, 16 Aug 2013 05:05 PM

Jacques Verges, the French lawyer known as the "Devil's advocate" for defending despised figures — including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz — died Friday of a heart attack at age 88.

Verges had a long career auguring for the rights of war criminals, terrorists, dictators, and other infamous characters of the 20th century.

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He passed away around 8 p.m. local time in Paris just before dining with friends, according to his publisher, Pierre-Guillaume de Roux. He died in the house once owned by 18th century philosopher Voltaire, The New York Times reported.

"He died in the very room where Voltaire took his last breath," de Roux said in a statement. "It was an ideal place for the final act of this born performer."

For more than half a century, Verges defended clients for acting for political reasons, despite charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, bombings, and the murdering innocent people. His cases include some of history’s most violent criminals — Klaus Barbie and terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal. He also claimed to help defend ex-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and advised Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, who ended up serving as his own attorney, but died before a verdict.

"I would have defended Hitler," Verges told German news magazine Der Spiegel in 2008, according to the Washington Post. "Defending doesn't mean excusing. A lawyer doesn't judge, doesn't condemn, doesn't acquit. He tries to understand."

He even lived under an air of mystery when he disappeared in 1970, and reappeared without an explanation years later. His absence has never been explained.

Barbie, dubbed the "Butcher of Lyons" for his part in torturing thousands of Jews and French Resistance fighters during World War II, was convicted in 1987 in Lyon, France. Verges said Barbie was "a respectable man ... unjustly condemned." He later represented Paul Touvier, one Barbie's aides, who was also found guilty of crimes against humanity.

Verges also lost the case for Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal, who kidnapped 11 OPEC oil ministers in 1975 and orchestrated bombings and shootings in the 1970s and 1980s.

Verges is survived by two sons and a daughter, de Roux said.

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Jacques Verges, the French lawyer known as the "Devil's advocate" for defending despised figures - including Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz - died Friday of a heart attack at age 88.
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2013-05-16
Friday, 16 Aug 2013 05:05 PM
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