- Government officials from Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea are reported to "work together" on extraditing the 70 suspected mercenaries from Zimbabwe. While their lawyer protests the legal basis of an extradition to Equatorial Guinea, South African authorities confirm that they will not intervene in a possible extradition of their citizens.
- Both Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea are independent, sovereign states with the necessary legal capacity to make decisions regarding matters that may affect their states, commented South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa yesterday. He added there was "no legal basis for South Africa to demand that its nationals should not be extradited to another country."
The lawyer representing the alleged mercenaries, Jonathan Samukange, had hoped the regional governments would protest an extradition to Equatorial Guinea, a country known not to respect human rights or organising fair trials. The suspected coup plotters held in Zimbabwe include Namibians, Angolans, South Africans, Congolese, a Zimbabwean and a Briton.
The South African Foreign Ministry however made it clear it would not intervene. Mr Mamoepa added that both Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea were parties to the OAU Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa, obliging all countries to punish mercenaries on their own soil "if it does not extradite him to the state against which the offence has been committed."
Mr Samukange, representing the 70 suspects, however yesterday told 'The Namibian' he would oppose the extradition on the grounds that an amendment of the law to include Equatorial Guinea was not done through parliament. Zimbabwe only on Wednesday announced it had drafted an extradition treaty of immediate effect with Equatorial Guinea. Mr Samukange commented that "you cannot legislate in retrospect. If the state is going to extradite them, I'm going to challenge the process."
The mouthpiece of the Zimbabwean government, 'The Herald', however today announced that arrangements for the extradition to Equatorial Guinea were well advanced. Equatoguinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema was in Zimbabwe yesterday, meeting with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Bulawayo. The two presidents here had been "working on the technical aspects" of the extradition, 'The Herald' quoted President Obiang.
The suspected mercenaries are by now termed "terrorists" by Zimbabwe's official state media, who leave no doubt they are dangerous and guilty of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea. Also Equatoguinean President Obiang has already announced their guilt, connecting the "mercenaries" with 15 suspected foreigners in Equatoguinean custody.
If extradited, the 70 suspected mercenaries would face a politicised trial in Malabo, the Equatoguinean capital. A long list of trials following alleged coup conspiracies have been denounced for the use of torture and arbitrary convictions. The suspects also may face death sentences. President Obiang has been quoted by the French news agency AFP as saying: "If we have to kill them, we will kill them."
The groups detained in Harare and Malabo are said to have been hired by the exiled Equatoguinean opposition leader Severo Moto to overthrow the Malabo dictatorship. Mr Moto allegedly had paid the group US$ 1.8 million and promised them shares in the oil-rich state's oil company GEPetrol.
Mr Moto however fiercely has denied any knowledge of this operation. Also the alleged mercenaries claim their innocence. They had hired an aircraft to work in mines in Congo Kinshasa (DRC), they maintain. Arms were to be bought in Zimbabwe, due to low prices, and to be used in their mission as security guards in Congo.
The suspected mercenaries claim they have been tortured into signing false statements while in Zimbabwean custody, a claim repeated in court this week. Also the 15 "mercenaries" detained in Equatorial Guinea are said to have been heavily torture, according to human rights groups. At least one of these suspects has been tortured to death, the same sources claim.
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