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AFRICA: Alleged Mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea Coup Attempt Expected to be Found Guilty

The conclusion of the trial of the alleged mercenaries here on Friday is expected to allow the government of Equatorial Guinea to focus on obtaining the extradition of alleged coup financiers.

by  Beauregard TrompThe Mercury
November 23rd, 2004

Two court battles in the intrigue of the attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea will draw to a close this week.

Equatorial Guinea Attorney-General Jose Olo Obono is en route to South Africa on Wednesday to be at the resumption of the trial of Mark Thatcher.

Obono said last week the conclusion of the trial of the alleged mercenaries here on Friday would allow the government of Equatorial Guinea to focus on obtaining the extradition of alleged coup financiers Thatcher, Eli Calil and opposition-in-exile leader Severo Moto.

The eight South Africans, six Armenians and five Equatorial Guineans will be sentenced on Friday. The attorney-general has dropped charges against three of the accused.

The most damning evidence in the case of the alleged mercenaries have been signed confessions by the accused, which have been accepted into evidence despite objections that these were extracted under torture. All of the accused are expected to be found guilty with the state asking for sentences ranging from 26 years to the death sentence for Nick du Toit.

After the verdict the defence is expected to appeal against the sentence which will set off a legal battle through the oil-rich country's courts that is expected to reach the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Obono will be hoping that the SA government is successful in convincing the courts that Thatcher should answer questions about the coup attempt.

The chances of Thatcher ever being extradited to Equatorial Guinea for trial, even if found guilty in SA, are even less likely. Observers point to the examples of alleged Mafia kingpin Vito Palazzolo and alleged German fraudster Jurgen Harksen, who tied up the South African government in court for years contesting their deportation.

The charges relating to contraventions of the Foreign Military Assistance Act that Thatcher faces in the SA courts this week are believed to be of a more concrete nature.

Last week Crause Steyl, Lourens Horn and Harry Karelse, who are being tried separately after having been freed from a Zimbabwean jail, cut a deal with the South African government to pay admission of guilt fines for their part in the coup attempt in exchange for their testimony against Thatcher, among others.

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