afrol News, 24 August - Equatorial Guinea's prosecutor today called for the death penalty for South African national Nick du Toit, the alleged leader of a group accused of plotting a coup d'état. While Mr du Toit told the Malabo court he had headed operations, his wife told the press that he had been tortured into confessing. He also confirmed alleged links to Spain.
A total of eight South Africans, six Armenians and one German were detained by Equatoguinean forces in March this year, accused with plotting a coup. The German citizen has died in prison, allegedly due to torture. 70 alleged "mercenaries" with a connection to the Malabo group were thereupon detained in Zimbabwe, allegedly being on their way to Equatorial Guinea.
Mr du Toit is accused of being the head of the alleged "mercenary group" that Equatoguinean authorities say plotted to overthrow dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema. He and his group allegedly were preparing the arrival of the "mercenaries" from Zimbabwe that were to carry out the armed attack.
The South African "mercenary leader" today was cross examined by the prosecutor at the second day of the Malabo trial against the group of 14. Mr du Toit said he had been "promised a large amount of money" to head the operation and that he wanted to secure the businesses he is doing in the country. He took on sole responsibility and said the other 13 men were unaware of what they were into under his leadership.
Mr du Toit further confirmed the prosecutor's allegations of a British and South African financing of the coup plot, stemming from businessmen with an interest in the oil sector. Further, according to Mr du Toit's testimony, leading Spanish and US politicians were advised on the coup plot.
The "mercenary leader" had been told by British citizen Simon Mann - who is detained as an alleged "mercenary leader" by Zimbabwean authorities - that exiled Equatoguinean politician Severo Moto and Spain were to provide political legitimisation to the coup. Mr Moto, now living in Spain, was to "land in an aircraft 30 minutes after the main force has landed," Mr du Toit said.
Further, "the Spanish government would recognise the Moto government, and that it had the blessing of some American higher-up politicians," the South African told the Malabo court. He thus confirmed earlier accusations made by the Equatoguinean government.
The credibility of Mr du Toit's testimony was however immediately doubted. Belinda du Toit told the Associated Press agency that her husband and the other accused had endured heavy torture, making them confess whatever the government wanted them. "They were electrified, beaten with (clubs), beaten with fists," she said.
German citizen Gerhard Eugen Nershz had died only after a few days imprisonment in Equatorial Guinea's infamous Black Beach prison, which is known for its systematic use of torture. Amnesty International quoted eye witnesses who had seen the German's corpse as saying he was tortured to death.
The accused "mercenary leader" however did not seem to be rewarded by his confession that confirmed the official Equatoguinean version of the coup plot. The prosecution today called for the death penalty for Mr du Toit, despite earlier promises made by President Obiang that the group of foreigners would not be given this penalty. Other members of the group were threatened with prison terms ranging from 26 years to 86 years.
The South African government, which so far has not intervened on behalf of its citizens detained in Equatorial Guinea, today said it could not accept a possible death penalty for Mr du Toit. "Our government will seek diplomatic intervention if the death penalty is handed down," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa today told the press in Pretoria.
Even Zimbabwean authorities have become sceptical of the Malabo court proceedings. Zimbabwe's Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi on Sunday told the official daily 'Herald' that a request by a delegation from Equatorial Guinea to extradite the 70 "mercenaries" held in Harare was turned down. "We said it was not possible since it will be against international laws," Minister Mohadi said.
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