Mann jailed over Equatorial Guinea coup plot

A Malabo court sentenced British mercenary Simon Mann to 34 years and four months in prison on Monday for leading an abortive coup in Equatorial Guinea.

Mann (55) was arrested in March 2004 along with 61 other suspected coup plotters when their plane landed in Zimbabwe. Mann also implicated Mark Thatcher, the son of Britain’s former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, in the plot to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The court fined Mann 100-million CFA francs ($235 000) and ordered that he be barred from entering Equatorial Guinea’s territory for a further 20 years after his sentence is served.

His co-accused, Lebanese-born Mohamed Salaami, was jailed for 18 years and three months with the same fine and territorial bar applied.

The two men were also ordered to pay damages of 20-billion CFA francs ($47-million).

Mann, dressed in prison clothes, showed no emotion as the sentence was read out. During the trial, both Mann and Salaami had expressed their remorse for the coup plot.

In his summing up, the judge recommended that the state prosecutor take all possible steps to prepare for the extradition of other people implicated in the plot, notably Mark Thatcher as well as Ely Khalil, a British citizen of Lebanese descent.

Prosecutors had during the June 17 to 20 trial asked for a sentence of 31 years and eight months against Mann, saying that under the terms of his extradition from Zimbabwe in February they were not able to ask for the death penalty.

They had called for a 24-year sentence against Salaami.

Mann, a former special forces officer who attended Britain’s prestigious Eton school and Sandhurst military academy, was said to be the brains behind the coup attempt.

It was aimed at overthrowing Nguema, who has ruled the country with an iron hand since a 1979 coup that ousted his uncle, and bringing exiled opposition leader Severo Moto to power.

The courts in Equatorial Guinea have sentenced Moto in his absence to more than 100 years in jail over several coup plots.
He is currently awaiting trial in Spain on charges of arms trafficking to his West African homeland.

During the trial, Mann also said that former colonial power Spain, South Africa and the United States all knew about the coup plot and approved it.—Sapa-AFP

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