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05 Nov 2009 11:33
Four South Africans pardoned by Equatorial Guinea for a failed coup in 2004 will not face local criminal charges when they return home, the Justice Ministry said on Thursday.
“These people have been arrested, tried, convicted and served a term for their crimes. They have paid for their sins and they will not be charged again,” said justice spokesperson Tlali Tlali.
South Africans Nick du Toit, Sergio Cardoso, Jose Sundays and George Alerson, along with British citizen Simon Mann, had been sentenced to 34 years in prison but were granted presidential pardons on humanitarian grounds on Tuesday.
They had been jailed for their role in a 2004 plot to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema as head of the former Spanish colony.
South Africa banned all mercenary activity in 1998, and tightened the law after the coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea.
However, Tlali said if new allegations against the four were to emerge, new charges will be investigated.
“If it appears that there are other allegations they were never tried for, these allegations will receive attention of the law agencies,” he said.
Mann returned to Britain on Wednesday, but the four South Africans have yet to return home.
The Foreign Ministry said it could not provide any details on their travels.
“Mandela taught Nguema to forgive”
Meanwhile, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday that Nguema released the mercenaries because he had learnt from former president Nelson Mandela to forgive.
Addressing a gathering of African traditional leaders in honour of Madiba, Zuma said he had been at a press conference with Nguema on Wednesday night when a journalist asked why the mercenaries had been released.
“I’m one of those who has been taught by Mandela that as Africans we must forgive,” Zuma said Nguema responded.
Zuma said the gathering, which would become an annual event, was appropriately in honour of Mandela.
“He was a man who did not see a contradiction between the traditional system and the modern democratic system.”
Zuma said it had been one of Mandela’s dreams that political and traditional leaders should work together.
“It is a welcomed initiative for you to come together and honour this hero.
“He [Mandela] took us to democracy, we must strengthen democracy.”—Sapa-AFP
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