Zim orders extradition of Mann to E Guinea

A Zimbabwe court agreed on Wednesday to extradite a Briton to Equatorial Guinea to face coup-plot charges, rejecting defence arguments he would not receive a fair trial and could be tortured.

Simon Mann, a former British special forces officer, has been held at a Zimbabwe prison since he was convicted in September 2004 of attempting to purchase weapons without a licence as part of a broader coup plot against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Harare magistrate Omega Mugumbate issued the ruling that Mann (54) could be extradited to the West African country to face charges, just two days before his expected release from prison in Zimbabwe.

”The extradition application is not prohibited in terms of the law. If it’s granted it would not violate international law,” Mugumbate said.

”[The] respondent did not prove charges of torture while [the] applicant provided a prima facie case against respondent. It is hereby ordered that respondent be extradited to Equatorial Guinea,” he added.

Equatorial Guinea Attorney General Jose Ole Obono told the hearing that although his government believed Mann was the ”intellectual head” of the coup plot, he would get justice.

But defence lawyer Jonathan Samkange said he would appeal because the court did not address the question of a fair trial or torture.

Mann was released on Wednesday but immediately detained at the same Harare prison under an immigration warrant for his deportation, Samkange said.

”My fear … is that they might just extradite him before the due process, and we are seeking your protection my worship,” Samkange said, adding Mann was ill and still had not managed to get an urgent hernia operation.

The magistrate ordered Mann should not be moved from Zimbabwe before his appeal is heard, and will on Thursday rule on the Briton’s bail application pending a High Court appeal.

First stop

Sixty-six other defendants arrested with Mann after their plane stopped in Harare served less than one year in jail after pleading guilty to charges of violating Zimbabwe’s immigration and civil-aviation laws.

Harare was said to be the first stop of a planned strike on Equatorial Guinea, Africa’s third biggest oil producer.

Eleven others, including a number of foreigners, are serving sentences ranging from 13 to 34 years in an Equatorial Guinea jail in connection with the coup plot.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s son Mark, accused of helping to fund the foiled coup, pleaded guilty to taking part but cut a deal with prosecutors in South Africa, where he lived, to avoid jail.

Samkange said international law barred the extradition of people indicted in political trials or facing possible torture.

”It would be a very sad day if Zimbabwe were to extradite a man against all international conventions,” he added.

Zimbabwean state lawyers said Equatorial Guinea was willing to have an African Union-appointed judge preside over Mann’s trial and that the death sentence would not be imposed if he is found guilty.

State prosecutor Joseph Jagada said Mann’s appeal had no chance of success and dismissed Samkange’s fears he would be extradited without proper procedures.

”If the executive wanted to do that, what would have stopped them?” he asked. — Reuters

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