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Jacques Vergès

Jacques Vergès (born March 5, 1925) is a French lawyer noted for defending unpopular figures, and a former Free French Forces guerrilla.

Throughout his career as an attorney, Vergès has primarily taken political cases, and his clients have included both left and right-wing terrorists, war criminals and militants. He defended the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie (1987) (the Butcher of Lyon), Ilich Ramírez Sánchez a.k.a. Carlos the Jackal (1994), the Kelkal faction (1995), the Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy (1996) and Slobodan Milošević (2002).

Born in Thailand and brought up on the Réunion island, he is the son of Raymond Vergès, a French diplomat, and a Vietnamese woman. He joined the Communist Party on Reunion and in 1942 he became part of the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle. After the war, while his brother Paul was imprisoned for murdering a political rival to their father, Jacques went to the Sorbonne to study law. In 1949 he became president of the AEC (Association for Colonial Students), where he met and befriended Pol Pot. In 1950 at the request of his Communist mentors he went to Prague to lead a youth organization for four years.

Returning to France he became an attorney and took controversial cases. During the struggle in Algiers he defended many accused of what the French government considered to be terrorism. He was a supporter of the Algerian armed independence struggle against France, comparing it to French armed resistance to the Nazi German occupation in the 1940s. He also left the French Communist Party following their political move towards the Fourth Republic.

Vergès became a nationally-known figure following his defense of suspected anti-French Algerian guerrilla Djamila Bouhired on terrorism charges (she was accused of blowing up a café, a civilian target). She was condemned to death but pardoned and freed following public pressure and married Vergès. Vergès himself was sentenced to sixty days in 1960 and lost his license to officially practice law for "anti-state activities".

Just out of prison he used his publicity tactics to defend the Jeanson network. It was during a ferocious cross examination that Paul Teitgen, commander of the Algerian police, publicly admitted to the use of torture.

After working on Algeria, Vergès moved onto Israel - he saw Israel as a base for neo-imperialism in the Middle East and when the wave of PFLP civilian hijackings started in 1968 Vergès often appeared in court to defend them. Then from 1970-78 he disappeared from public view without explanation. He returned with the same anti-France and anti-Israel agenda as before, defending any militants with a political cause, almost all of whom were found guilty. As well as attacking governments, in 1999 Vergès sued Amnesty International on behalf of the government of Togo.

Recently, after the US-led occupation forces invaded Iraq (March 2003), Vergès was asked to represent Tareq Aziz in court. On December 13, 2003, the United States arrested Saddam Hussein (Iraq's President since 1979). Jacques Vergès also offered to defend Saddam if he was asked to. "If I have to choose between defending the wolf or the dog, I choose the wolf, especially when he is bleeding". As of March 27, 2004, Mr Vergès has been confirmed to defend Hussein. His tactic will apparently be to accuse US government officials such as Donald Rumsfeld, of complicity in Saddam's alleged crimes. The governments of the US, France and Britain sold Saddam Hussein conventional, and illegal biological and chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s to support Saddam's war against Iran. Chemical weapons were also used on thousands of Kurdish civilians at Halabja.

Because of his tendency to represent some of the most infamous defendants, Vergès is sometimes referred to as "The Devil's Advocate."de:Jacques Vergès fr:Jacques Vergès


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