Basson witness grilled at hearing

2013-04-15 22:12
Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

Wouter Basson (Picture: AFP)

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Pretoria - Toxicologist Gert Jacobus Muller was questioned on Monday about his expert evidence in the ethical conduct hearing of cardiologist Wouter Basson.

During cross-examination at the Health Professions Council of SA in Pretoria, pro forma prosecutor Salie Joubert sought to ascertain why Muller was referred to in court papers as a professor.

Joubert read from a bundle of documents: "Notice is hereby given that the accused [Basson] intends calling Professor G Muller as [an] expert witness during the proceedings into above mentioned matter.

"You are not a professor."

Muller agreed.

Joubert went on: "Why would your [expert] summary [submitted to the tribunal] be filed as Professor G Muller?"

Muller said he had no idea. When the title issue was raised again later Muller said people often addressed him as professor and he always corrected them.

"This is a mistake that is made all over and virtually every week or two I am addressed as professor and I keep telling people that I am not.

"I don't see why this is a problem," said Muller.

Joubert said statements were made on Muller's behalf without studying the different international conventions Basson allegedly flouted.

"You would agree with me, Dr Muller that they [the defence] made statements as to what you would adduce [at the hearing] when you could not have testified to that?

"You had not read the convention at the time of commencement of your testimony, am I right?"

Muller agreed.

Joubert was referring to the international convention on the prohibition of the development, production and stockpiling of bacteriological (biological) and toxin weapons, and on their destruction.

It was signed in 1972. He said the expert evidence statement attributed to Muller had been written by someone.

"You never made this statement. Somebody wrote it, submitted it, saying you are going to say that without you having read it," Joubert said.

Muller agreed.

Joubert said: "They [the defence] want you to come and say things in this court that you have not even considered."

Muller said he did not agree with Joubert's remarks.

Carried out orders

Earlier, Muller gave evidence on toxic chemicals and poisons, including those used in warfare.

"A toxic chemical means any chemical that, through its chemical action on life processes, can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals.

"This includes all chemicals, regardless of their origin or of their method of production. It is a dose which determines whether a chemical is a poison or not. If you take in 250g of table salt in one shot it is probably potentially lethal."

He said even water could cause intoxication. He gave the categories of chemicals, including irritants used in teargas and their effects.

Basson's lawyer, Jaap Cilliers SC, led Muller in giving his evidence-in-chief.

Muller told the committee chairing the hearing he had been a medical practitioner for 45 years.

He had worked in South Africa and England, and had written various medical journals and books.

Basson, dubbed "Dr Death", was former head of the country's secret chemical and biological warfare project, Project Coast, during the apartheid era.

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 for operatives to use to commit suicide in case of capture.

United States medical ethics expert Steven Miles previously testified that Basson had violated the laws of humanity and various World Medical Association declarations and regulations.

Basson argues the surgeon general at the time was in charge of the military programme and that he carried out orders as a soldier.

The hearing continues on Tuesday.

Read more on:    hpcsa  |  wouter basson

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