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Brit deported to face coup plot charges

Source ITN

Updated on 01 February 2008

Zimbabwe has deported a former British special forces officer to Equatorial Guinea to face coup plot charges, his lawyer has said.

Simon Mann was jailed in Zimbabwe in 2004 after conviction on charges of seeking weapons without a licence as part of a plot against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Mann, 55, was briefly released after serving his sentence in May last year but was arrested again on an immigration warrant while awaiting deportation.

His lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, said immigration authorities had deported Mann on Wednesday night.

It followed the Zimbabwe High Court's rejection of arguments that he should not be extradited because he may be tortured over the coup charges in Equatorial Guinea.

Mr Samkange, who filed an appeal on Thursday at the Supreme Court against the High Court decision, said he had only discovered later in the day that Mann may have been deported.

He said: "They deported him at night late on Wednesday. There are (state) affidavits to that effect.

"The idea was that by the time we file a notice of appeal he would have gone.

"We are going back to courts to ask that he should be brought back here because the state knew that we were appealing to the Supreme Court against the High Court ruling."

Authorities in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea have assured Zimbabwe that Mann, whom they see as the "intellectual head" of the coup plot, would receive a fair trial.

Mann was arrested when he met a plane carrying dozens of men and military equipment which landed in Harare on what officials said was the first stop on their way to launching a coup against Mr Obiang.

Eleven other men, including several foreigners, are serving sentences of between 13 and 34 years in Equatorial Guinea in connection with the alleged plot.

Mann, who is the heir to a brewing fortune and attended Eton school, is a former member of elite British special forces who later helped found two security firms that became bywords for mercenary activity across Africa in the 1990s.

His high-society pedigree was highlighted in 2004 when South African police arrested Mark Thatcher, the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, at his Cape Town home on suspicion of bankrolling the coup plot.

Mr Thatcher denied any involvement in the plan, and eventually agreed a plea bargain deal with South African authorities.

© Independent Television News Limited 2008. All rights reserved.

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