Jacques Verges, the French lawyer who defended war criminals, terrorists, dictators and other notorious villains of the 20th century, died Thursday in Paris. He was 88.
He died of a heart attack in the Parisian house where the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire once lived, according to his publisher, Editions Pierre-Guillaume de Roux.
His clients included the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie; the terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, aka Carlos the Jackal; and Cambodia's Khmer Rouge head of state, Khieu Samphan. He sought to defend former Presidents Saddam Hussein of Iraq, who was executed for crimes against humanity, and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, who represented himself in a war-crimes trial but died before a verdict.
Like many of his clients, Mr. Verges, who was born in Thailand to a Vietnamese mother and a French diplomat, was an enigma. Assassins targeted him. There were hints of ties to secret services, to terrorists he defended and to Mao Tse-tung, Che Guevara and other revolutionaries. He was a confidant of Pol Pot, the tyrant blamed for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians. He married a terrorist he saved from the guillotine, but left her and his two children and disappeared for eight years in the 1970s.