Terror's Advocate

16th May 2008 at 01:00
You know your life has taken an awkward turn when your best mate's nicknamed the "Butcher of Lyon" and you spend your spare time hanging out in Iraqi jails
You know your life has taken an awkward turn when your best mate's nicknamed the "Butcher of Lyon" and you spend your spare time hanging out in Iraqi jails.

But that doesn't seem to bother Jacques Verges, the firebrand French lawyer who's represented more political pariahs than you could shake a United Nations arrest warrant at and, what's more, seems to view the resulting uproar the way the rest of us would regard a nice cosy bubble bath.

Asked whether he'd defend Hitler, Verges once replied: "I'd even defend Bush, but only if he agrees to plead guilty." His client list has included the Butcher of Lyon (Nazi war criminal, Klaus Barbie), Slobodan Milosevic, and Tariq Aziz, Saddam's right hand man.

Although Terror's Advocate, out this week, doesn't quite succeed in nailing Verges (he portrays himself as a passionate anti-colonialist with a healthy disrespect for western hegemony), it paints a fascinating picture of a man who's adventures include marrying an Algerian guerrilla and palling up with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.

But when asked if Barbet Schroeder, the director, had damaged his reputation, Verges replied: "I used him as you would use a knife and fork at table ... a tiger can devour you, a pussycat cannot."

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