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'Dr Death' loses appeal

30 June 2010 - 01:18 By CLAIRE KEETON

Apartheid -era germ warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson lost a court application yesterday to stop the Health Professions Council of South Africa prosecuting him for professional misconduct.

With the judge ruling against him, Basson is running out of options to stall the HPCSA probe, which could see him struck off the medical roll if he were found guilty.

He is practising as a cardiologist in Cape Town.

The council is investigating six charges of "unethical and/or unprofessional conduct pertaining to human rights violations" by Basson, who was not present in court.

He can still apply to the Supreme Court of Appeal or the Constitutional Court to overturn the high court judgment that gives the green light to the HPCSA inquiry.

Known as "Dr Death" for spearheading the apartheid military's secret biological and chemical weapons project, Basson directed research into deadly poisons and viruses in the 1980s.

Basson went on trial in 1999 on 67 charges, including murder and conspiracy to murder, in the Pretoria High Court.

He was acquitted in 2002 of these and other criminal charges related to "Project Coast" amid administrative and technical problems.

Basson's legal team yesterday challenged Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann's May 10 ruling - that the HPCSA could go ahead with its investigation.

Bertelsmann yesterday stood by his decision that the HPCSA can proceed, dismissing Basson's application with costs in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Basson petitioned last month to block the inquiry on the grounds that it would be a biased "witch hunt".

His legal team claimed HPCSA registrar Boyce Mkhize was trying to influence the process to prejudice him. Bertelsmann said there was "no prospect of this argument succeeding".

"I am very happy with the outcome," the HPCSA's general manager of legal services, Advocate Tshepo Boikanyo, said yesterday after the ruling.

"We will set the wheels in motion to continue with the prosecution of Dr Basson. Obviously he will have a fair opportunity to present his case at the inquiry."

In July 1998 Basson appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to testify about Project Coast. The scientists allegedly researched ways to poison anti-apartheid leaders, sterilise black South Africans, contaminate the water supply with cholera and spread HIV among ANC soldiers.

Basson rejected the TRC's offer of amnesty, fuelling speculation that he could incriminate people in high places with his revelations if he felt under threat.