Simon Mann, who was sentenced to 34 years in prison in Equatorial Guinea in 2008 for plotting a coup, has been granted a presidential pardon.
Supreme Court Justice Obono Olo told the Associated Press by telephone that Mann and his accomplices would be freed later on Tuesday morning. He said President Teodoro Obiang Nguema gave them “a full pardon for humanitarian reasons”.
Mann, a former special forces officer who attended Britain’s prestigious Eton school and the Sandhurst military academy, was arrested along with 67 South African mercenaries as they touched down to pick up illegal arms in Harare in March 2004.
During his trial, the court in Equatorial Guinea heard that Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British prime minister, was a member of the group. Mann acknowledged knowingly taking part in the attempt to topple Equatorial Guinea’s government, but his lawyer argued he was a secondary player. Mann was held at the notorious Black Beach prison in Malabo, the capital.
Thatcher was fined R4 320 184 and given a four-year suspended sentence for helping charter a helicopter which he agreed “might be used for mercenary activity”.
Mann had initially claimed he was heading for the Democratic Republic of Congo to protect a diamond mine.
In a March 2008 interview, Mann said: “It was a fuck-up. I blame myself for not simply saying: ‘Cut’. I was bloody stupid. I regret all that terribly. You go tiger shooting and you don’t expect the tiger to win.
He did claim, however, that Spain and South Africa were in favour of the plot.
Mann was also ordered to pay a fine and compensation of about £14,6-million.