/ 22 November 2009

Mercenary tells of torture in Black Beach prison

A gun was placed to his head and he was threatened with death by an adviser to Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, mercenary Nick du Toit has told Rapport.

In a three-hour-interview with the newspaper, Du Toit said he was dragged from his cell in the middle of the night by the adviser, whom he said was drunk at the time.

Du Toit spent more than five years in Equatorial Guinea’s notorious Black Beach prison after a failed attempt to overthrow Nguema, for which he and the rest of the coup plotters received sentences of 34 years each.

He was unexpectedly released on November 5 with fellow plotters Briton Simon Mann and South Africans, George Alerson, Sergio Cardoso and Jose Sundays after receiving a presidential pardon.

He told Rapport they were tortured in prison with electric shock devices and burning cigarettes. One coup plotter died of a heart attack while being tortured, he said.

Under the headline ”My prison hell” the newspaper reported that the scars were still visible where handcuffs had cut Du Toit’s wrists to the bone, then rusted in place. He had lost 37kg in prison.

Du Toit reiterated his contention that the South African government knew about the planned coup six months beforehand, but did nothing to stop it, in effect tacitly approving it.

”We were under the impression that if the thing actually went ahead, the government would support us … we were covered,” he said, adding that this impression was conveyed to them by Mann.

‘It was a fuck-up’
Mann, a former special forces officer who attended Britain’s prestigious Eton school and the Sandhurst military academy, was arrested along with 67 mercenaries from South Africa 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.

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. – Sapa