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'UK Knew of Coup Plot' Print
The Herald - February 17, 2007 - Harare

BRITAIN was aware of plans to topple Equatorial Guinea President Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo by mercenaries led by Simon Francis Mann, a Harare court heard yesterday.

Mann is currently serving a four-year prison term in Zimbabwe for illegally possessing firearms.

Equatorial Guinea Attorney General Mr Jose Olo Obono said this under cross-examination by defence lawyer Mr Jonathan Samkange, in Mann's extradition hearing at the Harare Magistrates' Courts.

Mr Obono said former British Foreign Minister Mr Jack Straw confirmed they were aware of the attempt by the group to overthrow President Mbasogo.

He, however, quickly clarified to the court that he did not imply that the British were involved.

"In the British Parliament, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Jack Straw was grilled by Members of Parliament on whether or not the government was aware of the coup which was to be carried out in Equatorial Guinea.

"He admitted, saying the security services of the British government had information on the planned coup," he said.

"That was a statement made in Parliament and even the British representatives in this court can confirm.

"However, I need to make it clear that I do not imply that the British were involved in the plans because there is a difference between knowing and being involved."

Mr Obono further told the court that there could be some countries who were behind the coup basing on the evidence from statements made by some of the mercenaries upon their arrest.

"From statements of Nick Du Toit and Mann, it was stated that the former government of Spain was aware of the planned action. According to Mann's statement in particular, there could be others apart from the Spanish government who were funding the coup.

"Our intelligence services from 2004 to date, are carrying out investigations in these countries," said Mr Obono.

The court also heard that Equatorial Guinea was not only seeking Mann's extradition, but had also applied to have exiled politician Severo Moto extradited from Spain.

Asked to comment on South Africa's involvement, Mr Obono requested to have the court cleared before magistrate Ms Omega Mugumbate briefly adjourned the hearing and took Mr Obono, chief law officer Mr Joseph Jagada and Mr Samkange to her chambers for a discussion.

Mr Samkange maintained that Mann would not get a fair trial in Equatorial Guinea and that he would be subjected to torture.

He promised to bring two witnesses to testify on issues of unfair trial and torture in Equatorial Guinea.
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