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Simon Mann 'freed' from prison

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 03 November 2009

Channel 4 News learns that former SAS soldier Simon Mann, sentenced to 34 years for his role in the Equatorial Guinea "wonga coup", is free from prison and set to leave the country after receiving a full pardon.

Simon Mann (Getty)

A statement on Equatorial Guinea's Ministry of Information website says that Mann has received a full pardon fpr his charges on humanitarian grounds - deteriorating health is thought to be the reason for the sudden pardon.

"After his release, the offender is obliged to leave the country in the non-extendible period of 24 hours and are strictly prohibited from returning to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea," the statement says.

Mann has served 15 months of his 34 year sentence for his part in a failed attempt to topple President Obiang and the government of Equatorial Guinea, a tiny west African state which has vast oil reserves.

Simon Mann was arrested along with 66 suspected mercenaries and a cargo of military equipment in Zimbabwe in March 2004. He spent four years in jail there before being extradited, he claims illegally, to Equatorial Guinea in 2008.

The family of the former British soldier said today they were "absolutely delighted" at the news.

Obiang's "compassion"

Channel 4 News correspondent Sue Turton covered Simon Mann's trial last year and said that there had been rumours about his release for some time.

"Simon Mann's brother and sister were told last Friday that the pardon was imminent and they flew out on a charter plane over the weekend. They went to the prison and collected him and then they all went across to one of the leading hotels there.

"When he was sentenced one of the things the judge did say was that as well as being incarcerated for 34 years he was also banned for returning to Equatorial Guinea for decades and decades - which promoted quite a rife smile on his face at the time.

"So it is expected that he will actually get on that charter plane and it will take him back home again.

"There have been rumours that this was going to happen for just over a month now due to worries about his sickness - he's had two hernia operations in prison since he was sentenced. For President Obiang they don’t want his health to have deteriorated any further before he gets to go home.

"So I think in many ways it is compassionate grounds - it is Obiang's last roll of the dice.

"The last chance he gets to use Simon Mann to show he is this benevolent leader and he's done the right thing by releasing him."

"I was not the main man"

In an exclusive interview with Channel 4 News in March 2008 Mann told Jonathan Miller that he was "the manager" of the plot but "not the main man".

"It was a f**k up and I have to carry the can for that.

"I blame myself most for simply not saying "cut" two months before we were arrested. That's what I should have done. I was bloody stupid.

"You go tiger shooting but you don't expect the tiger to win," he said.

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