/ 4 November 2009

Zuma freed us, says mercenary

South African mercenary Nick du Toit, who has been freed from a notorious Equatorial Guinea jail, has given President Jacob Zuma the credit for his and his accomplices’ pardon.

”We were told … that we were going to be freed. We were told that Zuma and his government were involved in the negotiations for our release and now today, we are free men,” said Du Toit.

The Star reported on Wednesday that he and his accomplices, Briton Simon Mann and South Africans Sergio Cardoso, Jose Sundays and George Alerson were in the dark about how their release was negotiated.

”We do not know what went on behind the closed doors or for how long they have been negotiating.

”We are just glad that we are going home. This has been a dream of mine for years and I cannot wait to hold and see my family again.

”While we have been preparing ourselves for this, it is still hard to believe that we are actually coming home,” said Du Toit, who was jailed in a Black Beach prison for his involvement in a 2004 plot to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Zuma visited Equatorial Guinea last year and was due to arrive in the country for another visit on Tuesday.

His spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, said he was not privy to any discussions that were held between the two statesmen.

”It’s possible that the government of Equatorial Guinea had believed it needed to release them on the eve of President Zuma’s visit.

”But that was not a condition from our side, to say they must do that on the eve of the visit. We do believe it satisfies the legal provisions of Equatorial Guinea,” said Magwenya.

Several reports suggested the men would return to South Africa within 24 hours of their release on Tuesday but it was not clear exactly when they were expected to arrive.

Mann may face Scotland Yard questioning
Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is considering whether to interview Mann when he arrives back in Britain as part of its investigation into the attempted coup.

Equatorial Guinea’s president, Teodoro Obiang, said detectives from the Met’s counterterrorism command, SO15, had interviewed Mann while he served his sentence.

Scotland Yard said it had been liaising with the Crown Prosecution Service over whether it had gathered enough evidence to bring charges. There are allegations that part of the plotting occurred in London, meaning Mann could face prosecution under terrorism legislation.

The Met said it had ”monitored” Mann’s trial in Equatorial Guinea, where he claimed that others including Sir Mark Thatcher had been involved.

British detectives visited Equatorial Guinea three times between July and October last year. They first went on July 28, returning five days later, and again for 12 days, returning to the UK on September 17. Their final visit was from October 14 to 28.

Obiang, in an interview shortly after the detectives left last year, said Mann had cooperated with British police and had named names. He told the Mail on Sunday: ”Simon Mann has collaborated brilliantly with them and given them information, names and other things, which they didn’t know about the case.

”We have a law that if someone behaves well or collaborates with the government then we can, in certain circumstances, pardon them or give them a reduction in their sentence. Simon Mann has collaborated with our government and the British police and if he continues to behave so well then yes, we will reduce his sentence.” – Sapa, guardian.co.uk