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Malabo wants alleged coup plotter executed

Published Nov 18, 2004

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By Estelle Shirbon

Malabo - Equatorial Guinea's state prosecutor demanded the death penalty on Thursday for a South African on trial in sub-Saharan Africa's third-biggest oil producer on charges of plotting to topple its president.

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Summing up the case against 19 suspected mercenaries, state prosecutor Jose Olo Obono said the team was working for an international web of financiers seeking to put exiled politician Severo Moto in power.

Equatorial Guinea says the plot to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was organised by Simon Mann, a former British special forces officer who was jailed by Zimbabwe in August on charges related to the alleged coup.

Obono told the court he wanted the death penalty both for South African Nick du Toit, who was in court flanked by four armed guards with his hands and feet shackled, and for Moto, who lives in Spain and is being tried in absentia.

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Fourteen people, including Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, are listed in court documents read out by Obono as alleged financiers of the plot.

Thatcher is accused of stumping up $275 000 (about R1,6-million). Lebanese oil tycoon Eli Calil is alleged to have contributed $750 000 and a number of other British businessmen are included in the list handed out in the Malabo court.

Thatcher, however, has not been charged by Equatorial Guinea and the central African country has not yet decided whether to extradite him from South Africa, where he is on trial for his alleged role in the plot. He and Calil have denied any involvement.

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Du Toit was the only man on trial in Equatorial Guinea to admit involvement in the alleged plot but he retracted his confession on Tuesday when the trial resumed after an 11-week break to let prosecutors gather more evidence.

The South African said he had been tortured and confessed only to save his life. But in his summing up, Obono rejected any allegations of mistreatment, saying all the prisoners' rights had been respected.

"Any statement to the contrary... is not admissible in this trial," he told the court.

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Obono called for seven other South Africans on trial to be sentenced to 86 years each and for six Armenians to serve 26 years each. He dropped charges against three Equatorial Guineans but asked for terms of 62 and 42 years for two others.

Eight members of Moto's so-called government in exile in the Spanish capital, Madrid, also being tried in absentia, each faced terms of 102 years.

Defence lawyers for the South Africans, Moto and his exiled government, the Armenians and the Equatorial Guineans were due to make their pleas on Thursday afternoon.

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