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South African Held on Nuclear-related Weapons Charges - 2004-09-03

A South African businessman has appeared in court on charges of importing materials which could be used in the manufacture of nuclear products.

Johan Andries Muller Meyer faces three charges of illegally importing and possessing materials and equipment that could lead to the development, manufacture, or maintenance of weapons of mass destruction.

The equipment allegedly found in his possession can be used in the production of enriched uranium, which is used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

Mr. Meyer's attorney, Heinrich Badenhorst, earlier told a local news agency that he was accused of manufacturing weapons at his engineering firm in Vanderbijlpark, an industrial area 90 kilometers south of Johannesburg. Mr. Badenhorst said his client denies the charges.

The South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction said in a statement that Mr. Meyer was arrested following an investigation of several companies and individuals. Council Chairman Abdul Minty said the investigation had been conducted with the cooperation of officials in other countries and with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

South Africa's apartheid government developed a nuclear weapons capability in the 1970s in defiance of international treaties. But the program was unilaterally dismantled before 1993 and subsequently verified by the IAEA.

In his statement, Mr. Minty said South Africa has since followed a strict policy of disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. Meyer was ordered jailed until Wednesday when he will face a bail hearing.