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Africa
Briton jailed over coup plot
Former army officer jailed for 34 years for trying to launch coup in Equatorial Guinea.
Last Modified: 08 Jul 2008 20:45 GMT

Mann was arrested in March 2004 along with 61 other suspected coup plotters [AFP]

Simon Mann, a British mercenary accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea, has been convicted and sentenced to 34 years and four months in prison.

The court in Malabo, the capital, also fined Mann $235,000 on Monday, and ordered that he be barred from entering Equatorial Guinea's territory for a further 20 years after his sentence is served.

Mohamed Salaami, his co-accused, was jailed for 18 years and three months with the same fine and territorial bar applied.

Mann's sentence represents one year and four months longer than the
prosecution had asked, indicating the court's firmness in dealing with the matter.

'Money tempting'

The former army officer was arrested in March 2004 along with 61 other suspected coup plotters when their aircraft landed in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

They were accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea's president.

Mann, who had served with Britain's elite Special Air Service regiment, acknowledged during the trial that he knowingly took part in the attempt to topple the government.

But his lawyer argued that he had only been a secondary player.

Adam Roberts, an author who has written extensively about mercenaries in Africa, said the operation was an uncharacteristic mistake by such an experienced soldier.
 
Speaking to Al Jazeera, Roberts said: "He probably got involved because the money was very tempting ... but he made some serious mistakes."

Carlos Mangue, the presiding judge, said that despite an apology before the court, Mann had failed to show "an attitude of regret".

Possible pardon

Antony Goldman, a journalist who has been following the case closely and knows some of Mann's co-conspirators, spoke to Al Jazeera about the verdict.

Goldman said that a deal might be done to allow Mann to serve his sentence in the UK and that there was still a chance Obiang could pardon him.

Mann also implicated Mark Thatcher, the son of Britain's former prime minister  Margaret Thatcher, in the plot.

Thatcher was arrested in South Africa, but said that he thought that money he had supplied was for a helicopter to be used as an air ambulance.

Equatorial Guinea is seeking the extradition of Thatcher and other alleged backers to face trial.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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