Simon Mann, the leader of the failed Equatorial Guinea coup attempt that led to the arrest of Sir Mark Thatcher, was last night facing up to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of attempting to possess dangerous weapons by a court in Zimbabwe. The Old Etonian and former SAS officer, who was arrested on the tarmac at Harare airport in March along with a plane full of mercenaries while waiting for a delivery of weapons, will be sentenced next month. The latest twist in the saga comes at the end of an extraordinary week in which the attempted coup in a forgotten but oil rich corner of West Africa has sucked in several establishment figures and a rightwing coterie of businessmen, including Sir Mark, oil millionaire Ely Calil and Lord Archer. A magistrate sitting at a makeshift courthouse in the Harare maximum security Chikurubi prison, found 66 of the mercenaries, all travelling on South African passports, not guilty of the weapons offences. Charges had already been dropped against another three. Most of the men held in Zimbabwe had already pleaded guilty last month to lesser charges of violating Zimbabwe's immigration and civil aviation laws, carrying a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a fine. Prosecutors said Equatorial Guinea's Spanish-based opposition leader, Severo Moto, offered the group $1.8m and oil rights to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, informs Guardian. According to Telegraph, The former Special Air Service officer Simon Mann was found guilty by a Zimbabwe magistrate yesterday of attempting illegally to buy weapons to be used to stage a coup in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. He will be sentenced on Sept 10. His co-accused, 66 men he recruited for the operation, were acquitted of weapons charges under Zimbabwe's tough security laws. Mann was expressionless when the magistrate, Mishrod Guvamombe, read out the verdict in a shed that served as a makeshift court in the maximum security Chikurubi prison on the outskirts of Harare. "The action by the accused amounts at the most to attempting to purchase firearms. The accused is found guilty," said Mr Guvamombe. Mann was accused by the Zimbabwe government of being the leader of a plot to overthrow the regime of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. In mitigation, his lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, said yesterday that Mann had been "extremely co-operative". He said: "He has not wasted the court's time, And yet he has been treated worse than a condemned prisoner, and was deprived of all privileges allowed to prisoners on remand. Reuters published that A Zimbabwe court has convicted a British man accused of leading a coup plot against the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea on weapons charges, but acquitted most of the 69 other men held with him. Former British special forces officer Simon Mann was found guilty of seeking to possess dangerous weapons and could face up to 10 years in prison when sentence is passed on September 10. Sixty-six other defendants, including the 64 men who were travelling on South African passports when their plane was seized in Harare in March, were found not guilty by a magistrate at a make-shift courthouse in a Harare maximum security prison. The verdict came just days after South African police arrested Mann's acquaintance Mark Thatcher, the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, on suspicion of involvement in financing the suspected plot. Thatcher denies the accusations and was released on bail by a Cape Town magistrate. Analysts and lawyers said President Robert Mugabe's government apparently sensed it could not win a legal argument for a death penalty, which it threatened initially. They said the government chose instead to score political points. "This case was blown out of proportion for the sake of political expediency and this interfered with the legal matters," said Harare lawyer Jessie Majome.
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