Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Devil's Lawyer

Jacques Verges passed away in Paris in a house where Voltaire once lived last week.
He was born in Thailand in 1925 to a French father and a Vietnamese mother. He was a communist as a student and later supported the Algerian National Liberation Front in its fight for independence from France.
After securing the release of Algerian anti-colonialist militant Djamila Bouhired, he married her. They had two children and then he disappeared for eight years. No one knew where he went and to the day he died he never revealed his whereabouts. Verges' life story reads like a novel, but there is one chapter that he prefers to leave unopened: from 1970 until 1978, when he disappeared. He referred to this period as the dark side of his life.
Among the more persistent theories are suggestions that he fostered ties with Palestinian militants, that he passed through Congo – or that he lived in Khmer Rouge Cambodia.
Verges once said 'he passed through to the other side of the mirror.'
For whatever reason on his return he was a changed man. As an attorney he became the champion of extremists from both left and right.
He made headlines around the world thanks to a client list that included some of the most infamous names of modern times: Klaus Barbie, the Nazi 'Butcher of Lyon',

 Carlos the Jackal who's still in a French prison,

His long-time friend, Cambodia's former communist head of state Khieu Samphan,  a cohort of Pol Pot during the 1975-1979 Khmer rule,

 Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic who appeared before the UN war rimes tribunal in The Hague

Even the French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.
Most of his clients lost their cases but Verges' flair was in courtroom provocation, attacking the prosecution and maximizing the publicity of his defendants' cause. Once asked how he could defend Saddam Hussein, after he said he was prepared to represent the Iraqi dictator, Verges replied: "Defending Saddam is not a lost cause. It's defending (then US president George W.) Bush that is the lost cause."
Verges, a lover of thick Robusto cigars and author of some 20 books, starred in his own play in France, called Serial Defender.
In a newspaper interview in Germany years ago, Verges caused a storm when he said "I would have defended Hitler."
You could say everyone deserves the right to a defense in court, that someone needs to do the job of defending people like this, you could say Verges was a unique product of a unique time or a witness and participant in a history we'll never see again. But one can also ask what happened to Verges in those lost years.
Cara - Tuesday


  1. A dedicated, independent, vigorous defense is the background of a free society. And Verges' place in history will likely need one should those missing eight years ever come to light.

    1. I couldn't have said it better myself. Excuse me, I have to go lie down, as I must have a fever...

  2. Till now i don't know about devils-lawyer but he was very honest. thanks for sharing this valuable post. Thriller Books

  3. What a mystery. What a puzzle for some biographer to solve. In the wake of his death I imagine theories will emerge. Be sure to let us know about them. Enigmas like this do not come along every day.

  4. What an interesting story. True that everyone needs a defense. I know some principled lawyers who believe and live that -- even if some of their clients stun me sometimes.

    Sounds like reading some of his books would be quite an enlightening experience.

    And a good novelist could cook up an interesting book about his missing eight years -- and a good private detective could investigate this ala Sherlock Holmes.

  5. Thanks For shearing a story .about The devil's Lawyer.
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  6. I really love your write-ups guys continue the good work.Joe Tacopina