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Mercenary accused to turn state witness Print

Sap - 05 February 2007

CHARGES against one of the nine men accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea were dropped in the Pretoria Regional Court today.

Maitre Ruakuluka appeared briefly with his eight co-accused. The other eight are: Raymond Stanley Archer, Victor Dracula, Louis du Preez, Errol Harris, Mazanga Kashama, Neves Tomas Matias, Simon Morris Witherspoon and Hendrick Jacobus Hamman.

State Advocate Torie Pretorius withdrew the case against Ruakuluka, apparently because he was to turn State witness. "That is only a speculation, but it is fair speculation," Pretorius told reporters afterwards.

The eight others are charged with contravening the Regulation of Foreign Military Assistance Act. They were part of a group of 61 who returned to SA in 2005 after spending more than a year in a Zimbabwean prison for violating that country’s immigration, aviation, firearms and security laws.

The charges related to an alleged plot to topple Equatorial Guinea’s long-time dictator, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema. The men were among a group of 70 arrested in March 2004 when they landed at Harare International Airport, allegedly to refuel and pick up military equipment.

Zimbabwean authorities said they were on their way to join other suspected mercenaries arrested in Equatorial Guinea at about the same time. Their trial is set down for three weeks and Pretorius told the court that there are more than 100 State witnesses. They however asked for a postponement till tomorrow to see if they can not come to an agreement with the defence teams on certain aspects of the trial.

"I hope to call only a dozen or so witnesses," Pretorius told the court. He said that it depended on the defence teams. The trial continues tomorrow. 

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