Johannesburg – A pre-trial hearing starts in Canada on Wednesday to determine the mental competence of the former head of psychiatry at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria, Dr Aubrey Levin, who faces 10 charges of sexually abusing male patients.
The former South African psychiatrist headed a controversial programme at the hospital during the apartheid years, designed to “cure” gay soldiers with shock therapy, Beeld reported on Tuesday.
The charges against him had all been brought by former patients – mostly jailed prisoners, for whom he provided psychiatric counselling on behalf of the Canadian government.
According to the Calgary Herald, Levin’s legal team initially told judge Donna Shelley he was too sick to be tried for at least another three months. She rejected the plea, saying there was no indication Levin’s health would have improved in that time.
Levin’s lawyers said he was mentally incompetent to stand trial, but the State intended calling witnesses to prove the contrary. If found to be mentally competent, his trial would start on Monday.
The hearing was being held in camera, out of concern that South African journalists, in particular, would ignore any publication ban.
The first charge against Levin was laid by a 36-year-old patient two years ago, after which he was struck off the roll in Canada.