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21 Jun 2008 08:59
Mercenary leader Simon Mann, on trial for plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea, on Friday claimed that the country’s Attorney General, who is leading the prosecution against him, visited him in Harare in 2005 and offered him a deal.
At the end of his four-day trial, Mann said the Attorney General, José Olo Obono, had asked him to sign an affidavit naming the financiers behind the plot.
In return, Equatorial Guinea would not seek his extradition, and he could go free.
But he said his legal adviser in Harare, Jonathan Sanganke, and Andy Kermana, a London lawyer retained by his wife, Amanda, had advised against the deal.
“I also made two further attempts to contact Equatorial Guinea in 2006 but I was blocked by my lawyer,” he said.
Mann’s claim was later put to Obono and he acknowledged its accuracy.
Mann (55) now faces the prospect of spending the next 32 years in Black Beach Prison in Malabo. Sentencing is likely to take place next week.
Earlier, Mann’s defence lawyer portrayed him as a “poor victim” of the 2004 plot. In an impassioned plea, José Pablo Nvo said the sentence should take into account his level of involvement and his collaboration with the authorities.
Nvo, who was chosen as the only English-speaking lawyer, said Mann “was not a co-author, but an accomplice”.
Mann claimed that under “plan A”, the alleged mastermind, Lebanese businessman and London resident Ely Calil, would activate his contacts in the army and the police, and that the gang would be shaking hands on the Tarmac rather than shooting their guns. He said a team of 80 men did not stand a chance of regime change without internal help.
Nvo said: “Why not clarify who was involved in plan A? Then we would know [Mann] was one more poor victim.”
Earlier, in his closing speech, Obono indicated that he already had a list of military collaborators found in the house of one of the six other Equatorial Guinea defendants on trial. Further trials would follow, he said.
“He’s never for one moment said that he did not participate,” said Nvo. “The majority of the evidence was brought to the court by Mann himself voluntarily.”
Mann’s attitude had been one of repentance and the “desire to repair the damage he has done to our people”, Nvo said. The real culprits were the business lobby—including Mark Thatcher, named as a central player—which was trying to carve up the country’s resources, he said.
Obono insisted the crime justified the sentences he was recommending. He said Mann was a terrorist waging war on innocent women and children.
In an intriguing insight, the Security Minister, Manuel Nguema, said that he had lunch with Mann every day in Black Beach Prison. Nguema said Mann had been provided with an exercise machine, books and medicines. In a bizarre twist, he said that he had received a copy of The Wonga Coup from Mann, an account of the coup by the journalist Adam Roberts.—guardian.co.uk
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