Equatorial Guinea to try Simon Mann on Tuesday

British mercenary Simon Mann, an Eton-educated former special forces officer, will go on trial in Equatorial Guinea on Tuesday for leading a failed 2004 coup, the state’s public prosecutor said on Friday.

Jose Olo Obono said that Mann, who was arrested in 2004 in Zimbabwe with 70 mercenaries en route to the oil-rich Central African nation, will face three main charges: crimes against the head of state, crimes against the government and crimes against the peace and independence of the state.

”There are evident facts in this case, so what can he say?” Olo Obono said.

”The maximum sentence would be the death penalty … but I don’t think in this case we will seek the death penalty.”

Mann, held in Malabo’s notorious Black Beach prison, said in a television interview broadcast in Britain in March that he plotted to oust the Central African state’s President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the former Spanish colony since 1979.

Mann, heir to a brewing fortune who attended Britain’s exclusive Eton School, was extradited from Zimbabwe in February after serving a four-year sentence for buying weapons without a licence. Prosecutors said the arms were to be used in the coup.

‘Dogs of war’
The arrest of Mann, who once served in Britain’s elite Special Air Service regiment, had ended the career of one of the last prominent ”dogs of war” still active on the African continent. One of Africa’s most notorious foreign mercenaries, Frenchman Bob Denard, died in October.

After his army service, Mann (55) later helped found two security firms that became bywords for mercenary activity across Africa in the 1990s — Executive Outcomes and Sandline International.

Mann had appealed against his extradition by arguing he would not receive a fair trial and could be tortured in Equatorial Guinea, which has faced sharp international criticism for human rights abuses.

The High Court in Zimbabwe, which has an oil-supply deal with Equatorial Guinea, dismissed his argument.

Equatorial Guinea authorities have said Mann has testified that Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, knew all about the scheme to topple the government of sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest oil producer.

Mark Thatcher has denied any involvement in the plan. He was arrested in 2004 by South African police at his Cape Town home on suspicion of bankrolling the coup plot, but he eventually agreed a plea-bargain deal with South African authorities.

Olo Obono said journalists would be allowed to cover the Mann trial but cameras would not be permitted in the courtroom.

Eleven other men, including several foreigners, are already serving sentences of between 13 and 34 years in Equatorial Guinea in connection with the alleged plot. — Reuters

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