Trial resumes in alleged E Guinea coup plot

Independent Online, South Africa
Nov 15 2004

Trial resumes in alleged E Guinea coup plot

By Rodrigo Angue Nguema

Malabo – The trial of 19 defendants accused of seeking to overthrow
the president of this small, oil-rich West African nation, Teodoro
Obiang Nguema, was scheduled to resume on Tuesday after a two-month

The second act of this judicial saga opens two weeks before the
hearing in South Africa of charges against Mark Thatcher, son of
former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who is accused of
bank-rolling the alleged coup plot here.

The prosecution asked for the case to be suspended in August, hoping
to obtain more information from Thatcher. But he has denied having
anything to do with the alleged coup, and has made it known through
his lawyers that he would not cooperate with the Equatorial Guinea

They have denied seeking to overthrow Obiang
The defendants include eight South Africans, a six-man Armenian air
crew and five Equatorial Guineans, including a former deputy

They have denied seeking to overthrow Obiang, who has ruled over one
of the world’s poorest country with an iron hand since 1979

when he deposed and executed his uncle, and who has stashed millions
of dollars in oil revenues in a US bank, according to a US
Congressional report.

South African Nick du Toit told the court in August that he had
recruited personnel and taken charge of logistics for an attempted
coup, which authorities claim was masterminded from Madrid by exiled
oppositionist Severo Moto Nsa.

Du Toit said he had accepted the job at the request of Simon Mann,
the alleged leader of an alleged mercenary band arrested in Zimbabwe
in March while reportedly on its way to Equatorial Guinea.

Called for the death sentence against Du Toit
A Zimbabwean court sentenced Mann to seven years in jail on weapons
charges, 65 others to one year in prison for breaching immigration
rules and the two pilots of their aircraft to 16 months.

According to the prosecution, the defendants were in charge of plans
to receive 70 mercenaries from Zimbabwe and guide them to their

Only Du Toit, head of an air transport and fisheries company here,
has acknowledged having a marginal and non-operational role in the
alleged plot and has exculpated his fellow defendants, one of whom, a
German citizen, died in prison. They have categorically denied
knowing about any plot against Obiang.

In the absence of confessions, the only evidence against the
defendants is fragmentary – mysterious contracts they were supposed
to have signed and examples of weapons supposed to have been acquired
for the operation.

Nevertheless, prosecutor Jose Olo Obono has called for the death
sentence against Du Toit, and prison terms ranging from 26 to 86
years for the others.

Their outlook took a turn for the worse last month when Obiango, who
calls himself God, said “exemplary” sentences would be pronounced
against them. – Sapa