British mercenary on trial over African "coup plot"

 British mercenary on trial over African "coup plot"
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Prosecutors in Equatorial Guinea have called for a 32-year jail sentence for a former British army officer accused of leading an attempted coup against the country’s president. But defence lawyers claim Simon Mann only played a small role in a plot organised by foreign investors, one of whom, allegedly, was Margaret Thatcher’s son, Mark.

At the opening of the trial Mann was allowed to speak to the media about reports that President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo might pardon him: “Obviously, I’m hoping for clemency”, he said.

He is accused along with eight others of trying to overthrow the head of state, or even assassinate him, and replace him with an opposition leader. They all deny the charges.

Mann was arrested in Zimbabwe in March 2004 with 70 mercenaries, en route to Equatorial Guinea. He was extradited earlier this year after serving a four-year sentence for illegal possession of arms.

Under the extradition deal with Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea’s authorities agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Mark Thatcher denies knowingly being involved in the alleged coup. He was released on a plea bargain deal after being arrested in South Africa in 2004. He said he had thought he was financing the purchase of an ambulance helicopter.

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