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31 Jan 2008 15:48
A court in Zimbabwe dismissed an appeal against the extradition of a former British special forces officer accused of leading a coup plot to topple the government in the oil-rich West African nation of Equatorial Guinea, his lawyers said on Thursday.
Attorney Chris Venturas said he lodged a further appeal early on Thursday at the Supreme Court, Zimbabwe’s highest court, to try to stop Simon Mann’s extradition following the appeal ruling by the High Court late on Wednesday.
Mann, a friend and associate of Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested along with 70 others when their aircraft arrived at Harare’s main airport to collect weapons bought from the Zimbabwe state arms maker.
Mann was sentenced to four years in jail in Zimbabwe in September 2004 on weapons charges.
In May last year a magistrate ordered his extradition to face another trial in Equatorial Guinea but permitted an appeal to the High Court.
In her ruling on that appeal late on Wednesday, Judge Rita Makarau said the government of Equatorial Guinea had established Mann had a case to answer for leading a coup plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Ngeuma that warranted extradition to face trial there.
Mann’s lawyers had argued he would face torture and a likely death sentence if extradited to a nation with one of the worst human rights records in Africa.
Wednesday’s ruling said Mann’s legal team failed to provide enough evidence of the likelihood of torture.
At Mann’s extradition hearing last year, Equatorial Guinea undertook to provide an independent judge selected by the African Union. It also said the death penalty would not be applied if Mann was convicted of allegations of terrorism and leading the 2004 coup plot.
Thatcher pleaded guilty in a court in Cape Town in 2005 to unwittingly helping to bankroll the coup attempt. He was fined and received a suspended sentence. All 70 other alleged mercenaries—mostly former soldiers in regional armies—were freed and deported after serving minor sentences in Zimbabwe for aviation, immigration and weapons possession offences.
Until the Supreme Court decides whether to hear a new appeal, acting Attorney General Bharat Patel promised that Mann (54) would be given seven days notice of extradition to face trial in Equatorial Guinea, Venturas said.
Venturas said flaws in Makarau’s ruling were grounds for the new appeal.
“We are now waiting for the Supreme Court to respond. We have noted all the misdirections in the judgement,” he said.
Venturas said Mann did not appear in court on Wednesday and his health was “fine” after being held at the harsh Chikurubi maximum security prison outside Harare since 2004.
Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea only signed an extradition treaty after the mercenary suspects were jailed in Zimbabwe. Since then, several shipments of fuel have arrived in Zimbabwe, which is suffering acute fuel shortages, under a trade deal between the two countries.
Equatorial Guinea has sentenced 24 other suspected mercenaries from European and African nations to lengthy prison terms related to the coup plot. - Sapa-AP
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