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British mercenary faces 30 years for EGuinea coup plot: court Print

17.6.2008

MALABO (AFP) — Prosecutors called Tuesday for a 30-year prison sentence for British mercenary Simon Mann as he went on trial in Equatorial Guinea for plotting to oust the president in a 2004 coup attempt.

The chief prosecutor told the court said Mann was the mastermind of a group of people who "wanted to topple the legal government" of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
 
Although the charge carries a possible death sentence, Attorney General Jose Olo Obono said waiving the death penalty had been a pre-condition of Mann's extradition from Zimbabwe, where he was arrested in 2004.

But he added: "Simon Francis Mann remains the main accused in this trial because he is at the centre of this attempted coup d'etat."

 

He continued: "It was him who accepted the proposal to carry out this coup , it was him who recruited Nick du Toit."

South African, Nick du Toit, was the leader of a team of the mercenaries. He has already been been jailed for 34 years in Equatorial Guinea.

Mann was arrested in 2004 at Harare's international airport with 61 alleged accomplices when their plane touched down en route to Equatorial Guinea.

The authorities there accused them of trying to pick up arms before teaming up with the team led by du Toit, to launch their coup attempt.

"It is also him (Mann) who contacted Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, to get him to finance the coup operation," Obono continued.

Equatorial Guinea has already issued an international arrest warrant for Thatcher, accusing him of having been one of those behind the plot.

During a long opening speech, Obono said that it was Thatcher who had paid for the whole air operation during the preparations for the coup.

As well as Thatcher, the London-based millionaire businessman Ely Calil has also been linked to the failed coup bid.

In an interview with Britain's Channel 4 News from his prison cell in Malabo, Mann has acknowledged having been involved in the coup plot but said that he had not been the mastermind.

He accused Spain and South Africa, and named Calil as having been involved.

The prosecutor said Mann had signed the contracts worth 15 million dollars for the operation with Severo Moto Nsa, an political opponent of Obiang who has been sentenced in absentia to several years in jail.

He is currently in jail in Spain awaiting trial on charges of arms trafficking in a bid to get weapons to Equatorial Guinea.

The prosecutor also called for a 30-year sentence for his co-accused, Lebanese national Mohamed Salaami, a businessman based in Equatorial Guinea.

Mann and Salaami should also face fines of 152 million euros (236 million dollars), said Obono.

He called for lesser sentences for Guinean nationals accused of having failed to warn the authorities about the coup plot.

Mann, dressed in blue-striped prison greys and dark trousers, remained impassive throughout the prosecutor's speech.

Earlier Tuesday, the 55-year-old defendant, looking thinner than when he first arrived, arrived at the court in an armoured van amid tight security.

Mann, 55, was secretly extradited to Equatorial Guinea this year from Zimbabwe.

The heir to a brewing fortune who was educated at Eton, he served in Britain's Special Air Services (SAS) after training at the prestigious British military academy Sandhurst.

In the 1990s, Man set up a security consultancy called Executive Outcomes to protect businesses in conflict zones. It allegedly earned millions from Angola, one of Africa's top oil producers, to guard oil installations against rebel attacks.

He also set up another private security firm, Sandline International, which was soon being linked to a 10-year civil war in the west African country of Sierra Leone, one of the most brutal conflicts in modern history.

President Obiang, who is accused by critics of stifling democracy and trampling on human rights and of frittering away the country's new-found oil riches with his family members and aides, has said he will not seek vengeance.

Obiang told Channel 4 the trial was not "an act of revenge."

Equatorial Guinea minister Fortunato Ofa Mbo, the Secretary General to the Government Presidency, is also on trial for allegedly helping Calil by keeping secret information he had on the coup plot.

President Obiang has ruled the central African country since he overthrew his own uncle, Francisco Macias Nguema, in 1979.

In last month's parliamentary election, the president's ruling party and his allies obtained 99 of 100 seats in elections, according to the official results.
 
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