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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lawyer Eclipses Jackal in French Press

PARIS -- A frenzied French press has put the attorney of Carlos the Jackal in the headlines, alleging he was an accomplice, a spy and a target of a secret-service hit squad.


Newspapers read like cloak-and-dagger paperbacks with continuing revelations about "the real Jacques Verges."


Retorts by the lawyer, ever cool, quick and adroit, have added a slapstick twist to the allegations.


Carlos, a Venezuelan-born terrorist, was brought to France Aug. 15 after being captured in Sudan the previous day.


Since then, Verges has been portrayed as a member of Carlos' network in France, a liaison between Carlos and the French government, and a CIA spy.


He has been accused of stocking rockets for a 1982 attack on a reactor in France, and of accepting 30,000 francs ($6,000) to pay off prison guards so Carlos' jailed lover could escape.


The reports have relied mainly on archives of the Stasi, the secret police of the former East Germany.


"I am one of the authors of the nuclear plant attack," a straight-faced Verges told reporters in response to the reports. "And I'll let you in on a little secret. The assassination of King Alexander of Yugoslavia, that was me ... the Great Train Robbery, that was me too."


"I am Fantomas," he concluded, referring to a famous 1960s French film about an elusive masked bandit.


Verges is seen as a phantom figure within the French establishment, a role he clearly relishes. He cultivates an aura of mystery, refusing, for example, to explain an eight-year absence from France.


He has made his name on high-profile cases that test his skills as provocateur. He defended former Nazi Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie and Nazi collaborator Paul Touvier, both convicted. He was lawyer for Carlos' alleged wife, the suspected West German terrorist Magdalena Kopp, jailed for three years.


Victims of terrorism are "sickened and tormented" by the debate, said Jean-Paul Levy, lawyer for a victims' group that wants Carlos convicted.


But Verges has his own revelations. On Friday, he claimed the French presidency's anti-terrorist unit wanted to eliminate him in the early 1980s. Army Captain Paul Barril, former head of a special operations group, was charged with the task.


On Sunday, Barril corroborated the account in a television interview.


On Monday, Barril's claims were denied by the secret service and counterintelligence chiefs at the time.


Meanwhile, Verges remains defiant.


"If they want to get rid of me by charging me, they won't," he said Monday night. "I'm not part of the Carlos network. Of course not. I swear."