The trial of a British mercenary accused of plotting to overthrow Equatorial Guinea's government will start on Tuesday, the nation's attorney-general said.

The trial of Simon Mann will be held on Tuesday to Thursday in the country's capital, Malabo, Attorney - General Jose Olo Obono told The Associated Press by telephone on Thursday.

Mann, a former British special forces officer, was arrested in 2004 with 70 others when their plane arrived in Zimbabwe to collect weapons bought from Zimbabwe's state arms manufacturer.

He was extradited earlier this year to Equatorial Guinea and is being held at the country's notorious Black Beach prison.

Mann has been accused of being ringleader of the coup plot. Mann said recently that he and his team had been hired to be bodyguards for a new president - not to conduct a coup.

Equatorial Guinea is ruled by President Teodoro Obiang, who seized power in a 1979 coup. His country, which commands enormous oil reserves, is considered to be among Africa's worst violators of human rights. - Sapa-AP