Coup suspects proclaim innocence

Agence France Presse
Aug 25 2004

Coup suspects proclaim innocence

Two South Africans, who are on trial in Equatorial Guinea with 16
other people, on Tuesday denied playing any part in an alleged coup
plot against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the
central African country wth an iron fist for 25 years.

One of the alleged masterminds of the putsch, South African Nick du
Toit, told the court earlier on Tuesday that four citizens of
Equatorial Guinea, who are among the accused, were all innocent.

South Africans Marius Boonzaaier and Sergio Patricio Cardoso told the
court they had been employed by Triple Option, a company in
Equatorial Guinea set up by Du Toit.

But they said they had never been aware of a scheme to oust Obiang
Nguema, who had himself seized power in a military coup on August 3,

Boonzaaier (48) and Cardoso (44), were both members of the South
African military before they were recruited by Du Toit, who admitted
to the court on Monday to playing a limited role in a coup bid.

The three South Africans have been on trial in Malabo since Monday,
along with five other South Africans, six Armenians and four
Equatorial Guineans, all accused of involvement in the alleged coup

South Africans arrested in early March

The South African and Armenian suspects were arrested in early March,
after Obiang Nguema declared on national television and radio that a
bid to oust him had been thwarted.

The four Equatorial Guineans now on trial in Malabo with Du Toit and
the other suspects include former deputy economic planning minister
Antonio Javier Nguema Nchama, who was also chairman of Triple Option.

Du Toit, who runs several businesses in the small oil-rich country,
told the court earlier on Tuesday he had only ever had strictly
professional ties with the four, who he said were all innocent.

Du Toit told the court he had been in charge of logistics for an
attempted putsch and had accepted the job at the request of one Simon
Mann, founder of the mercenary firm Executive Outcomes.

Du Toit accepted job at request of Simon Mann

Mann is alleged to have headed a group of 70 suspected mercenaries,
who were arrested in Zimbabwe on March 7 and accused by Obiang Nguema
of intending to join Du Toit and the other defendants in Equatorial
Guinea to take part in the coup.

Equatorial Guinea’s state prosecutor said on Monday he was seeking
the death penalty for Du Toit and prison terms ranging from 26 years
to 86 years for the other defendants.

That prompted South Africa to say on Tuesday that it would intervene
if Du Toit was sentenced to death.

“Our constitution outlaws the death penalty and therefore our
government will seek diplomatic intervention if the death penalty is
handed down,” foreign ministry spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa told AFP.

Boonzaaier and Cardoso told the court Du Toit had asked them to pick
up a group of people from Malabo airport on March 7 but insisted they
had not known why.

Boonzaaier said he had only heard about the alleged coup after he had
been arrested and Cardoso told the prosecutor he did not know why he
was on trial.