Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Zimbabwe: 67 "mercenaries" plead guilty to some charges

Jonathan Samkange, the Zimbabwean lawyer for the group, entered guilty pleas on behalf of 67 of his clients to charges of violating Zimbabwe's immigration and civil aviation laws when their plane landed in Harare in March.

Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe, presiding over the special court convened in Harare's top security jail, immediately found the men guilty of the charges which could carry sentences of anything from a fine to several years in jail.

The three other men in the group, including suspected ringleader Simon Mann, were already in Zimbabwe when the plane landed and so did not face the immigration charges.

Samkange said the entire group planned to plead not guilty when the court begins hearing the more serious charges against them on Wednesday.

[...] These [more serious] charges, filed under Zimbabwe's tough state security laws, include attempting to possess dangerous weapons and attempting to purchase weapons of war and could bring jail sentences of up to 15 years.1
The men still say they are not mercenaries and that they were not heading to Equatorial Guniea to take part in a coup plot. They insist they were heading to the Democratic Republic of Congo to guard mining operations.

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    1: Chinaka, Cris. (2004, July 27). Zimbabwe 'Mercenaries' Plead Guilty to Some Charges. Reuters.