PARIS – French lawyer Jacques Verges, nicknamed “The Devil’s Advocate” for defending the likes of Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, has died at the age of 88, the National Bar Council confirmed on Friday.

Verges died of a heart attack on Thursday evening at a house in Paris where 18th-century philosopher and playwright Voltaire once lived.

The venue was seen as a fitting setting for the final act in an epic life story.

Born in Thailand in 1925, Verges grew up on the French island of Reunion, which he left at the age of 17 to join the Free French Forces in London.

At the end of World War II he joined the Communist Party but later quit the movement over what he saw as its timid support for Algeria’s liberation struggle — a cause to which he was passionately devoted.

As a lawyer, he defended liberation fighters, dictators and terrorists, with relish and brio.

One of his clients, Algerian militant Djamila Bouhired, later became his wife.

“The planters of bombs are the planters of questions,” he argued.

His clients included some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century.

Besides Barbie and Hussein, he also defended Venezuelan self-styled revolutionary Carlos the Jackal, and former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.

In 1970, Verges disappeared, leaving his wife and children behind for eight years. When he resurfaced all he would say was that he had been on “long holidays far east of France.”


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