Basson says South African bioweapon program aimed to save lives

Wouter Basson, a cardiologist who is currently facing four charges of unethical and unprofessional conduct, testified on Monday that his involvement in South African chemical and biological warfare programs was aimed at saving lives.

The charges against Basson relate to his activities when he was the head of the country's biological and chemical warfare research program for the defense force during the apartheid era in the 1980s and early 1990s. He testified before the Health Professions Council of South Africa that the chief of the defense force and surgeon general approached him in the early 1980s to create a system that would protect the country against biological and chemical warfare, Daily News reports.

"The guidelines were given by the surgeon general, who was a medical doctor of international standing and who advised several governments in other countries," Basson said, according to Daily News. "As a medical doctor I could live with the idea that I was preventing injuries and death through my involvement in developing the substances."

Basson said that he was employed to develop a more humane way to control crowds and that the council should look at his decision in the context of the times. He showed a video clip to the council of a man being stoned and set on fire by a crowd.

"My recollection is that I felt I could make a difference...I could stop that senseless violence and damage to property by breaking the cohesion of the crowd that is involved," Basson said, according to Daily News. "Seeing those videos again gave me the same feeling of stress and heart palpitations. We're looking at a crowd that is totally oblivious - children were involved. It was like a Sunday picnic."

Basson said that the weapons did not advance to the pre-production level and that the substances were not used on the ground.