Posted at 1:02 PM on November 23, 2007
by Euan Kerr
Jacques Verges is a man people love to hate. Not only does he defend terrorists in court, he defends the worst of the worst.
He went to college with Pol Pot, and hung out with him in the last years of his life.
He defended Carlos the Jackal, a man that even other terrorists think is psycho. He defended Klaus Barbie, the former Nazi known as 'the Butcher of Lyon.' He's also Slobodan Milosovic's lawyer. He's represented a host of people all over world who are accused of doing indefensible acts.
And you know what? He seems like a pretty reasonable guy.
Verges is the subject of Barbet Schroeder's documentary "Terror's Advocate" which opens this weekend at the Oak Street in Minneapolis. It's thought-provoking stuff.
Schroeder opens the film with a disclaimer, saying it's his view of Verges, and he knows other people have a different opinion.
The movie takes the idea that one person's terrorist is another person's freedom fighter, exploring how Verges developed ideologically and how he put his methods of turning a trial of a terrorist suspect on it's ear by putting the dominant society itself on trial.
Verges is an eloquent man, who has come into contact with some of the world's most hated individuals. He has alienated his family and friends at times. although they always seem to defend him.
The length of Verges career becomes Schroeder's biggest challenge. He struggles sometimes trying to move from case to case and to keep straight all the stories he is telling and the important differences between the characters. It helps if you have more than a passing knowledge of the Algerian and Palestinian conflicts and the bombing and hijacking campaigns associated with both. Otherwise the film may become confusing.
Jacques Verges has a very different worldview from most Americans and Schroeder introduces us to it. This film won't win him any converts, but it may gain him some understanding.