Terror's Advocate Jacques Vergès buried in Paris

Jacques Vergès in 2011
Jacques Vergès in 2011 AFP

Controversial French lawyer Jacques Vergès, whose clients included Algerian separatists, former Nazis, Khmer Rouge leaders, Saddam Hussein's foreign minister Tariq Aziz and Carlos the Jackal, was buried in Paris on Tuesday. Vergès was dubbed "terror's advocate", by film-maker Barbet Schroeder and "the devil's advocate" by the Catholic priest who conducted his funeral.


Vergès was full of suprises to the end, choosing to have a Catholic funeral after a career that began in the Communist Party and the French resistance to Nazi occupation, saw him become a lawyer, a Maoist and a Muslim when he married a former client, Algerian independence activist Jamila Bouhirad, who was condemned to death and then pardoned for her alleged part in a bombing that killed five and injured 60.

Some of those who went to the 17th-century baroque church of St Thomas Aquinas in Paris's swish seventh arrondissement had equally checkered careers.

As well as his twin brother Paul, a Communist senator, his daughter, Meriem, his son, Liess, and his last love, the Marquise Marie-Christine de Solages, the service was attended by:

  • François Bozizé, the deposed president of the Central African Republic;
  • Dieudonné, a French comedian who accused of anti-Semitism;
  • Roland Dumas, a former Socialist foreign affairs minister and fellow lawyer who faced trial and was declared innnocent in a high-profile corruption case.

Wreaths arrived from lawyers who defended former Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan, the Algiers bar and the company that runs Paris's Bateaux-Mouches.

Vergès was the subject of Barbet Schroeder's 2007 film Terror's Advocate and four books and in 2008 took to the stage in a one-man show, Serial Pleader.

He was played by Nicolas Briançon in Olvier Assayas's 2010 Carlos, a biography of international terror network head, Carlos the Jackal.

Starting his political life in the French Communist Party, Vergès became a fervent opponent of colonialism and imperialism, resigning from the party to become a Maoist because he found it too soft in its support for the Algerian independence movement.

His anti-colonial commitment led to defend Algerian independence fighters, Carlos Ramirez, known as the Jackal, and later Khmer Rouge and African leaders.

His legal strategy was to turn defence into accusation, attempting to use a trial to expose the alleged crimes of the French state or the big powers.

"Jacques, whom I affectionately called the devil's advocate, had the courage of his convictions, private and political," said Father Alain Maillard de La Morandais, a friend of Vergès's who conducted the funeral service.

Vergès was buried in Paris's Montparnasse cemetery.

Jacques Vergès's life in dates:

  • 1925: Born in Ubon Ratchathani, Siam (now Thailand), to Vietnamese schoolteacher Pham Thi Khang and French doctor and consul Raymond Vergès.
  • 1928: Mother dies, family moves to French Indian Ocean island La Réunion;
  • 1937: Takes part in demonstration supporting left-wing Popular Front;
  • 1942: Joins resistance to Nazi occupation of France;
  • 1943: Goes to London to work with Free French, fighting in Italy and France;
  • 1945: Joins French Communist Party in Paris;
  • 1950: Elected to bureau of Communist international students' union at congress in Prague, becomes involved in anti-colonialist politics;
  • 1955: Qualifies for the Paris bar;
  • 1957: Engaged to defend Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) member Jamila Bouhired, captured and tortured by French paras and condemned to death for the bombing of a café in Algiers, leaves Communist Party;
  • 1961: Suspended from Paris bar for disrespectful conduct in court;
  • 1962: Jamila Bouhired pardoned and freed, Vergès moves to Algiers and takes Algerian nationality;
  • 1963: Meets Mao Tse-Tung, becomes Maoist, fired from job with Algerian government, returns to Paris;
  • 1965: Returns to Algeria after the fall of president Ahmed Ben Bella, practices law in Algiers, marries Jamila Bouhired;
  • 1970-78: Disappears, never explaining where to or why after his return to public life;
  • 1987: Defends former Lyon Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie against charges of deporting Jews to extermination camp;
  • 1993: Defends deposed Malian president Moussa Traoré;
  • 1994-97: Defends Carlos "The Jackal" Ilich Ramirez on murder charges in France;
  • 1994: Defends Omar Raddad, a gardener found guilty of killing his French employer and granted a partial pardon in 1998;
  • 1996: Defends French philosopher end ex-Communist Roger Garaudy on charges of holocaust denial;
  • 2000: Represents Gabonese president Omar Bongo, Congo's Denis Sassou-Nguesso and Chad's Idriss Déby and in unsuccessful case against journalist François-Xavier Verschave;
  • 2002: Offers to defend former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic on crimes against humanity charges but not retained;
  • 2007: Defends Khmer Rouge leader Khieu Samphan on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Cambodia;
  • 2008: Defends former Iraqi foreign affairs minister Tarek Aziz on murder charges in Baghdad;
  • 2010: Goes to Côte d'Ivoire with Roland Dumas to express support for deposed president Laurent Gbagbo, turned back at airport, accused of being paid for political defence of Wade;
  • 2011: Goes to Tripoli with Roland Dumas to offer to take legal action against French president Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of victims of Nato bombings on Libya;
  • 2012: Moves into home of Marquise Marie-Christine de Solages after suffering a bad fall;
  • 2013: Suffers heart attack, dies in the home of Marquise Marie-Christine de Solages, in the same room as Voltaire died in 1778.

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