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Tuesday, 9 May, 2000, 13:52 GMT 14:52 UK
Poison beer for apartheid enemies

The head of South Africa's chemical and biological weapons programme during the apartheid era, Dr Wouter Basson, supplied poisoned beer for tests on unsuspecting black taxi drivers, according to a witness at his trial.

Former special forces officer Johan Theron, told Pretoria's High Court the beer was to be distributed to taxi drivers in the Eastern Cape to find out if it was "functional".

Dr Basson, dubbed "Doctor Death", has pleaded not guilty to 61 charges of murder, fraud and drug peddling.

His lawyer Jaap Cilliers told the court that Dr Basson, who has continued to practise medicine while on bail, denied supplying substances to kill anyone.

Hundreds killed

Mr Theron, who has previously testified to killing hundreds of black prisoners and tossing their corpses from an aeroplane, told the court that the 11 litres of poisoned beer were not in the end distributed.

This was because his contact, Danie Faul, failed to turn up at a meeting arranged for its delivery.

Mr Faul, who was also previously a special forces officer, testified that they had killed colleagues suspected to being a security risk by injecting them with sedatives or poisons.

The trial, which is expected to last for three years, follows hearings by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in which witnesses told of the development of chemical weapons, and substances designed to kill or sterilise black people only.

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See also:

31 Jul 98 | Africa
'Doctor Death' implicates west
31 Jul 98 | Africa
D-Day for 'Doctor Death'
28 Oct 98 | Africa
Coming to terms with the past
28 Oct 98 | Africa
TRC: the facts
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