Basson not at inquiry

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IOL pic dec18 wouter basson file

Independent Newspapers

Dr Wouter Basson. File picture: Phill Magakoe

Pretoria - Apartheid-era chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson will not be present for the judgment on Wednesday in his six-year long misconduct hearing before the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

The HPCSA professional conduct committee received a letter on Friday informing it Basson would not be able to attend, chairman Prof Jannie Hugo said.

According to Basson's counsel, Jaap Cilliers SC, he had attended a medical conference overseas and there had been confusion over flight bookings.

Cilliers said Basson could be excused from proceedings and that a copy of the judgment would be sent to him.

The committee opened proceedings on Wednesday by observing a moment's silence for former president Nelson Mandela, who died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5, aged 95.

Basson, a cardiologist, was the project officer of Project Coast, a secret biological and chemical warfare research project which violated international protocols and conventions, in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The inquiry was held to determine whether he acted unethically in the exercise of his duties as a chemical warfare expert.

He is accused of acting unethically by being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and teargas, of weaponising teargas, and of supplying it to Angola's Unita leader Jonas Savimbi. He is also accused of acting unethically by providing disorientating substances for cross-border kidnappings, and by making cyanide capsules available for distribution to operatives for use in committing suicide.

In 2002, Basson was acquitted by the High Court in Pretoria of criminal charges arising from his conduct.

The HPCSA reviewed the judgment to establish if there were grounds to continue with an inquiry. The State appealed against this decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the appeal was dismissed.

The State then went to the Constitutional Court, but the case was dismissed in September 2005. - Sapa

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