A highly-controversial French lawyer famous for defending a series of high-profile criminals has died aged 88.
Jacques Vergès, known as “the Devil’s advocate,” worked for Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, international terrorist Carlos the Jackal and Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.
He is reported to have died after a heart attack in the Paris home where 18th century philosopher Voltaire once lived.
One of his last high-profile cases was the 2011 defence of Khmer Rouge Head of State Khieu Samphan, who faced charges of crimes against humanity.
Vergès also offered to represent former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein.
Christian Charriere-Bournazel, president of the National Council of Bars, told the AFP news agency: “He had a fall a few months ago, and so he was very thin, walked very slowly. He had difficulty speaking, but he was intellectually intact. We knew it was his last day but we did not think it would come so quickly.”
Mr Charriere-Bournazel paid tribute to Vergès saying he was very “brave” and “independent” but also “narcissistic” and “provocative”.
He added: “What can be learned from Jacques Vergès is both the talent, courage, commitment and sense of contradiction with respect to each other. A lawyer not a mercenary is a knight, and Jacques Vergès was a knight.”
Vergès was born in 1925 – but a year earlier according to a biographer – in today’s Thailand (Ubon Ratchathani), to a French father and a Vietnamese mother.
He was raised on the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion, which is where he is said to have developed his anti-colonialist views.
He fought for General Charles de Gaulle’s Free French resistance during World War II and later joined the French Communist Party.
He also defended Algerians accused of terrorism against France, including his future wife Djamila Bouhired, who had been sentenced to death in 1957 for planting bombs in cafes in Algiers.
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