British mercenary on trial in Equatorial Guinea

June 17th, 2008 - 8:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Nairobi, June 17 (DPA) The British mercenary Simon Mann was Tuesday set to come before a court in Equatorial Guinea to face charges of plotting a 2004 coup in which the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher was also implicated. Mann, who was extradited from Zimbabwe in January to face trial in the tiny West African nation, has admitted he was involved in the plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, but claims he was not the brains behind it.

Obiang has accused an unnamed former British cabinet minister, the Spanish government and Lebanese-British oil tycoon Eli Calil - believed to be the man referred to as “Smelly” in Mann’s prison notes - of involvement in the attempt to seize control of the oil-rich country.

Mann was arrested in Zimbabwe four years ago along with with 69 others when they attempted to pick up a shipment of arms.

Many of Mann’s co-conspirators are already serving jail sentences.

South African arms dealer Nick du Toit is amongst that group, although Amnesty International claimed that the trial convicting him was flawed.

Ponciano Mbomio Nvo, Mann’s former defence lawyer who was stripped of his right to practise last week, told British daily The Times that he believed the trial would be rigged.

The former Spanish colony has been accused of human rights’ abuses and Transparency International lists it as one of the world’s most corrupt states.

The public prosecutor says Mann could face the death penalty if convicted of the charges, but believes the state will most likely not seek the death sentence.

Mann earlier named Sir Mark Thatcher as one of his co- conspirators.

Thatcher still maintains he believed he was financing an air ambulance company in West Africa.

However, he was fined 500,000 dollars and given a four-year suspended sentence in South Africa in 2005 for his part in the coup.

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