Source Pravda.Ru

Simon Mann is jailed for 12 months on related charges

A Zimbabwe court has jailed British former special services officer Simon Mann for seven years in a case prosecutors linked to a foiled coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. The court also jailed 65 suspected mercenaries, all South African citizens, for 12 months on related charges. Mann, 51, had earlier pleaded guilty to trying to buy weapons from Zimbabwe's state arms manufacturer, but he always insisted the arms were to be used for guarding mining operations in eastern Congo. State prosecutors had sought to link him with 14 mercenaries now on trial in Equatorial Guinea on charges of trying to oust the tiny west African country's long-time ruler, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Mark Thatcher, son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested last month in South Africa on suspicion of helping bankroll the plot. Harare Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe made no reference to the coup plot when passing sentence. The court also handed down 16-month sentences to the two pilots of a Boeing 727 carrying the suspected mercenaries that was seized at Harare airport in March. The 65 men who were on the plane were also convicted of immigration offences and given 12-month sentences. A Zimbabwe court has jailed British former special services officer Simon Mann for seven years in a case prosecutors linked to a foiled coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. The court also jailed 65 suspected mercenaries, all South African citizens, for 12 months on related charges. Mann, 51, had earlier pleaded guilty to trying to buy weapons from Zimbabwe's state arms manufacturer, but he always insisted the arms were to be used for guarding mining operations in eastern Congo. State prosecutors had sought to link him with 14 mercenaries now on trial in Equatorial Guinea on charges of trying to oust the tiny west African country's long-time ruler, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Mark Thatcher, son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested last month in South Africa on suspicion of helping bankroll the plot. Harare Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe made no reference to the coup plot when passing sentence. The court also handed down 16-month sentences to the two pilots of a Boeing 727 carrying the suspected mercenaries that was seized at Harare airport in March. The 65 men who were on the plane were also convicted of immigration offences and given 12-month sentences, informs Reuters. According to the NEWS, a former SAS officer accused of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea was jailed for seven years in Zimbabwe yesterday for arms offences. Simon Mann, 51, who was arrested in March when a team of mercenaries he led landed in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, admitted two weeks ago that he had illegally tried to buy weapons. The 65 other men on the plane were each sentenced to 12 months for immigration offences; the two pilots were given 16 months. The sentences came amid fresh claims about the funding of the operation, which allegedly included a contribution from Sir Mark Thatcher. The military operation is said to have been aimed at unseating President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Africa's third-largest oil producer. Relatives broke down in tears when the jail terms were announced by a magistrate in a makeshift court inside Chikurubi maximum-security prison, where the men have been detained since their arrest. Observers said the sentences were stiffer than expected. Simon Mann, the British soldier-of-fortune accused of masterminding a botched coup last March against Equatorial Guinea's ruler, was sentenced to seven years in prison today for illegally trying to buy weapons in Zimbabwe. A Zimbabwe magistrate sentenced 67 other accused mercenaries to sentences ranging from one year to 16 months for violations of immigration law. Most of the men were seized after their northbound jet landed at Harare's main airport in March, apparently to pick up the weapons Mr. Mann had contracted to buy. The jail sentences were reported by wire services to have stunned many in the courtrooms, including some wives and children of the accused, who burst into tears. Many outsiders had predicted that Mr. Mann and the others would escape with little more than stiff fines for their offenses, which did not directly involve their purported involvement in the coup, reports the NYTimes.

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