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Reuters: Zimbabwe to charge "mercenaries" PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Friday, 12 March 2004 10:15
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe says it will charge dozens of mercenary suspects with trying to destabilise a sovereign state, saying the suspects were talking about their purported plot to stage a coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Zimbabwe detained more than 60 men after their Boeing 727 was seized in Harare on Sunday, and Equatorial Guinea detained 15 more who it said were an advance party. Both groups include South Africans. Fri March 12, 2004 06:33 AM ET

By Cris Chinaka
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=474669§ion=news
HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe says it will charge dozens of mercenary suspects with trying to destabilise a sovereign state, saying the suspects were talking about their purported plot to stage a coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

Zimbabwe detained more than 60 men after their Boeing 727 was seized in Harare on Sunday, and Equatorial Guinea detained 15 more who it said were an advance party. Both groups include South Africans.

"The charges are quite clear ... they include destabilising an independent and sovereign government and our statutes, and the AU (African Union), forbid that," Zimbabwean Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi told reporters on Friday after President Robert Mugabe met a visiting delegation from Equatorial Guinea.

Asked whether the suspects were cooperating with the investigation, Mohadi said: "They are talking".

Zimbabwe's foreign minister has said the men could face a possible death penalty.

A lawyer hired by a South African firm to represent the group was expected to meet them later in the day but Mohadi said it was unlikely they would appear in court on Friday.

"My only concern is the rights of my clients," said Attorney Jonathan Samkange.

The official Herald newspaper quoted acting Attorney General Bharat Patel as saying the group's leaders -- among them men identified as Briton Simon Mann and South African Simon Witherspoon -- could be charged separately from the rest.

Patel has suggested charges could include violating aviation rules and breaking immigration and firearms laws.

State radio said on Friday most of the men, who are both black and white, had South African passports, some of them fake.

SOUTH AFRICA SEEKS TO SHED MERCENARY IMAGE

South African Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said officials were considering bringing the South Africans in the group home to face trial under laws banning mercenary activity.

"We are discussing that but we are not opposed to them facing trial where they committed the crime," Dlamini-Zuma told SABC radio on Friday. South Africa has promulgated stiff anti-mercenary laws as it tries to shake its image as a supplier of "dogs of war" to African conflicts.

"The South African government is making the point that they are very serious about rooting this out -- it's very much in line with the African Union and its Peace and Security Council," said Henri Boschoff of Pretoria's Institute of Security Studies.

"It's about peace -- if you have lots of mercenaries running around, you're not going to get it," Boschoff told Reuters.

Zimbabwe officials have accused the men of being part of a plot to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa's third largest oil producer, and said the men had implicated U.S., British, and Spanish spy agencies in the plan.

U.S. and Spanish officials have denied involvement, while Britain has declined comment. The plane's operator has said it was flying the men to the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide security for mining operations.

Zimbabwe has identified the men as coming from South Africa, Angola, Namibia, Democratic Republic of Congo and one from Zimbabwe.

Equatorial Guinea accused "enemy powers" and multinational companies of plotting against the small central African state.
Last Updated on Friday, 12 March 2004 10:15
 

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