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WHO dismisses biosecurity expert after sexual misconduct inquiry, lawyer cries foul

WHO logo seen near its headquarters in Geneva

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization said it has dismissed a biosecurity expert after an internal inquiry upheld allegations of sexual misconduct but the man's lawyer dismissed the investigation as a smear campaign.

The details of the allegations were not made public.

"(The expert) has been dismissed from WHO following findings of sexual misconduct against him and corresponding disciplinary process," WHO spokesperson Marcia Poole said in an email to Reuters overnight. She said the expert had been informed of his dismissal on Sept. 6.

Swiss privacy laws prevent identification of people accused of wrongdoing unless they are well known and there is a serious need for the public to know the details of the alleged acts.

The expert's lawyer told Reuters on Thursday that her client contested the allegations against him and would challenge the dismissal.

"Proceedings against my client were unlawfully based on vague claims and hearsay, without factual statements supported by dates or alleged words or behaviours that would meet the legal definition of improper conduct," she told Reuters.

"This shows the true aim of the campaign - which was to smear my client without a visible accuser."

Asked to respond, the WHO spokesperson said the staff member had been dismissed following a thorough investigation.

The dismissal can be appealed through the U.N. internal hearings process.

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Jon Boyle)