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Monday, October 4, 1999 Published at 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK

World: Africa

Chemical warfare expert goes on trial

Dr Basson: Accused of mass murder and fraud

By Africa Correspondent Jeremy Vine

The trial has opened of a South African chemical warfare expert accused of poisoning enemies of the apartheid regime.

Doctor Wouter Basson is charged with killing 16 people, supplying poison to kill another 200 and obtaining $13m by fraud.

This will be an expensive and very long court case - possibly two years long - and the detail of the allegations will be sensational.

Some information emerged last year, a testimony to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A scientist described how Doctor Basson set up a company producing cigarettes laced with anthrax, as well as poisoned chocolate and whisky.

Nelson Mandela himself was said to be among the intended victims.


Doctor Basson, who continues to work privately as a heart surgeon, also allegedly supplied muscle relaxants which stopped victims breathing.

Their bodies were thrown into the sea from aeroplanes.

Some 200 members of a rebel group fighting South African rule in Namibia were allegedly killed with chemicals Doctor Basson supplied.

The case will remind South Africans of just how dirty some of the activities of their old apartheid government actually were.

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