Jacques Verges, the French lawyer best known for defending some of history's most despised criminals, died on August 15 at the age of 88 in Paris. The Canadian Press reports that the cause of death was cardiac arrest.
Verges was attending a dinner at the apartment once inhabited by Voltaire and died in the same bedroom in which the famed philosopher died himself.
"It was an ideal place for the final act of this born performer," Pierre-Guillaume de Roux, who edited Verges' memoir, said.
Born in Thailand to a Vietnamese mother and French diplomat father, Verges acted as the attorney for some of recent history's most infamous criminals. One of his most notable clients was Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo captain who was convicted of crimes against humanity in 1987, as well as Barbie's aid in execution. Verges also defended Venezuelan Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, also known as Carlos the Jackal, who was convicted of carrying out kidnappings, bombings, and shootings in the 1970s and 80s. Verges himself was accused by some of being a spy and comrade for Ramirez at one point and ultimately left the case before the Venezuelan was convicted in 1997.
The Washington Post describes Verges as being one of the most enigmatic and provocative legal personalities in the world, a title he seemed to feel comfortable with when it came to his choice of clients.
"I would have defended Hitler," he once said. "Defending doesn't mean excusing. A lawyer doesn't judge, doesn't condemn, doesn't acquit. He tries to understand."