Zimbabwe/Eqatorial Guinea: update on the mercenaries
A handy timeline of the saga.
The trial date for the 70 alleged mercenaries in Zimbabwe's custody has been postponed to July 21. It was initially set to start today but was postponed to accomodate an appeal by their families scheduled to be heard today in a South African court.
The families in South Africa want their government to extradite the men and try them in South Africa. The families took the government to court to force it to do just that ... but lost the case in early June. It is this decision that the families are appealing.
However, one exception is the family of Simon Mann, the alleged leader of the 70 suspected mercenaries. Mann and his family are not appealing the decision.
"Mr Mann and his family remain convinced that there are more appropriate ways than legal challenges to promote the South African government's understanding and support for the position of the 70 men," said [attorney Mariette] Kruger. (source)The lawyers representing the remaining 69 men are asking ...
It appears the families are most worried about that last prospect ... that the men would be sent to Equatorial Guinea. According to reports, the government of Equatorial Guinea wants the men transferred to its custody. A couple of months ago, there was a report that Zimbabwe had agreed to extradite the men in return for a cheap supply of oil.
That the South African government be compelled to help the men enforce their human rights in the Zimbabwean jail where they are being held;
That the South African government be ordered to request the men's extradition or release to South Africa;
That the South African government be ordered to stop Robert Mugabe's government from extraditing the men to Equatorial Guinea and seek assurance from both countries' leaders that the men will not be given the death penalty. (source)
And across the continent in Equatorial Guinea ...
Eight of the 15 alleged mercenaries in the custody of the Equatorial Guinea authorities are South Africans. Their trial is reportedly going to take place towards the end of this month. South African Foreign Minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has promised the government will do all it can to ensure that the men get a fair trial ... and that they will "engage the government around that issue of the death penalty should it be necessary." South African President Thabo Mbeki has ordered his chief prosecutor, Bulelani Ngcuka, to send a team of lawyers to monitor the trial. Ngcuka said the team of lawyers would go there "not only to monitor the trial, but to advise and assist the prosecution".
Also ... the government of Equatorial Guinea is suing, in a British court, the people it alleges were behind the coup plot on the "rarely-cited legal grounds of civil conspiracy." Named in the suit are Simon Mann; Eli Calil, a Chelsea-based oil tycoon; Greg Wales, a London businessman; Severo Moto, the exiled opposition leader; and two of Mr Mann's companies.
Early last week, Alwyn Griebenow, a lawyer defending the 70 men in Zimbabwe, accused the South African government of conducting secret talks with British lawyers to help transfer Mann to England. However, Griebenow said he doesn't have any proof of this. He is also no longer representing Mann. UPDATE July 21 ... Mann has decided that he wants Griebenow to continue defending him.
According to Sunday's Observer, Mann has some very powerful friends in England whom he has called upon to help him. (The article also contains details from Mann's "confession".)
Post about the alleged plot ...
If nothing else ... see this 60 Minutes story about Equatorial Guinea.
Although the other 69 defendants all hold South African passports, 23 originally come from Angola, 18 from Namibia and two from Congo. Most of them were black soldiers in the apartheid-era South African army. (source)UPDATE II: The trial actually started on July 22. It was postponed for an extra day after lawyers said they needed more time to finalise charges.