South Africa's 'Dr Death' Faces Trial over 16 'Chemical Killings'

Article excerpt

The trial of a physician dubbed "Doctor Death" begins today - when a South African court will hear allegations of murder, drug dealing and fraud surrounding the apartheid era's chemical and biological warfare programme.

Dr Wouter Basson, a heart surgeon, is charged with killing 16 people, supplying poison to kill another 200 and defrauding the white minority government of millions of pounds.

Details of the secret programme Basson headed started emerging in 1992. Other governments, including Britain, the United States and Switzerland, allegedly knew about it.

A 274-page indictment claims that the doctor supplied muscle relaxants, which caused victims to suffocate by paralysing their lungs, to clandestine forces set up to eliminate the apartheid state's enemies.

Among those Basson is accused of killing are five unidentified men who were tied to trees and smeared with a jelly-like ointment that was meant to kill them.

When the men didn't die, they were injected with an overdose of the muscle relaxants, the indictment alleges.

Basson also allegedly supplied substances used in the early 1980s to kill more than 200 members of a rebel group which fought South African rule in Namibia.

Those killings occurred outside South Africa, so Basson can only be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

The charges follow Basson's arrest in 1997 for possessing 1,000 tablets of the drug Ecstasy - part of more than 900 kilograms produced at government cost and sold privately by the physician, it is claimed. …