'E Guinea won't seek death for Thatcher'

By Zoe Eisenstein

Luanda - Equatorial Guinea will guarantee not to seek the death penalty if it decides to request the extradition of Margaret Thatcher's son in connection with a suspected coup plot, its state prosecutor said on Saturday.

South Africa will not extradite to countries that could apply the death penalty, but Jose Olo Obono told Reuters by telephone from the capital Malabo that this would not be an obstacle.

Mark Thatcher, 51-year-old son of the former British prime minister, was arrested in South Africa on August 25 on suspicion of helping to finance an alleged plot for which foreigners have been arrested in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.

Officials in South Africa said a delegation from Equatorial Guinea, including Obono, was due there on Sunday to make inquiries, including a possible interview with Thatcher.

"If we have the evidence then we must go against him," Obono said. "I think we can offer assurances that we won't use the death penalty. I'm sure that if we offer assurances in writing, I believe we can ask for extradition. I believe we can reach an agreement, there won't be a problem about this."

The trial of 14 suspected foreign mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea accused of plotting to oust its president was suspended this week to give investigators time to visit South Africa.

South Africa has said lawyers representing Thatcher are also open to such a visit.

Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has spoken of a conspiracy by foreign nations and firms. He says investigators have found a web of payments to offshore accounts.

His country is also pursuing other suspects, including exiled opposition leader Severo Moto, who lives in Spain, and London-based businessmen Eli Calil and Greg Wales.

Last week a court in Zimbabwe convicted Simon Mann, a former British special forces officer and friend of Thatcher's who has been accused of leading the alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea, of weapons offences.

Of the 14 foreign suspects on trial in Malabo, only one has admitted taking part in a plot: South African arms dealer Nick du Toit, for whom prosecutors want the death penalty.

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