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French lawyer who defended war criminals and terrorists dies at 88

Aug. 16, 2013 at 9:20 AM

PARIS, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Jacques Verges, a French lawyer who advocated for war criminals and terrorists, has died in Paris, his friends said.

Verges, who was 88, had a heart attack at 8 p.m. Thursday while preparing to dine with friends, The New York Times said.

Verges was born in Thailand, and at the age of 17, volunteered and fought for the French resistance, before beginning his law career in Paris, The Guardian said.

Verges rose to prominence in the 1950s, when he began defending Algerians accused of terrorist bombings, the Times said.

He argued the defendants were resistance fighters in a just war of liberation.

He later expanded his horizons, and later defended Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie and Khieu Samphan, the Cambodian Khmer Rouge's head of state.

"When you treat the accused as a monster, you give up trying to understand what happened. And if you don't try to understand what happened, you deprive yourself of any reflection on how to stop that thing happening elsewhere," Verges told The Guardian during his work on the case against Barbie, a Gestapo leader who was later convicted of executing French citizens and deporting them to death camps.

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