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Equatorial Guinea | South Africa
Politics | Society

South Africans get prison terms in Equatorial Guinea

afrol News, 26 November - Eight South Africans received prison sentences of up to 34 years by a Malabo court for their alleged involvement in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea. Six Armenians and several Equatoguineans were also given long prison sentences.

The Prosecutor of the Malabo court had asked for the death penalty for exiled Equatoguinean politician Severo Moto and the 48-year-old South African "mercenary leader" Marc du Toit, accused of being the heads behind the alleged March coup attempt against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

Mr du Toit was however given a 34-year prison sentence, probably as consequence of strong pressure from the South African government, which does not accept the capital punishment. This sentence is seen as raising the possibilities for the extradition of other South Africans accused of being involved in the alleged coup, including Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The case of the Equatoguinean court, reputed for arbitrary and politically motivated judgements based on torture, however was weakened by Mr du Toit's change in testimony in the closing days. He withdrew his August confession, saying it was made under torture. "There hasn't been any coup attempt. We have done nothing wrong," he told the court.

This is the same message that Mr Moto has repeatedly given from his Madrid exile, where he has established what he calls the "Government of Equatorial Guinea in exile". Mr Moto and his eight "Ministers" in exile were sentenced to from 63 to 52 years imprisonment in absentia. Spanish authorities however have no intention of extraditing the alleged masterminds of the "coup".

The group of 19 Equatoguineans and alleged foreign mercenaries were convicted for their participation in what Malabo authorities call a coup attempt in March this year. According to statements by President Obiang himself, the Spanish and British governments were involved in the planning of this coup, which was to be executed by foreign mercenaries and result in the naming of Mr Moto as Equatoguinean President.

The group around Mr Moto denies any knowledge of such coup plans and claims that they are yet another false rumour planted by the Obiang dictatorship to further decimate the country's opposition. Expect for Mr du Toits earlier confession, the alleged mercenaries have also denied the existence of a coup plan.

New testimonies however indicate there were indeed international plans to out the corrupt Obiang dictatorship. British Foreign Minister Jack Straw earlier this month during parliamentary question had to admit that his government knew about the coup plans already in January.

Representatives of the Equatoguinean press have also told afrol News that they "and almost everybody in the exiled opposition" knew about the plans long before March. They claim the plans were foiled due to the poor secrecy and organisation by the group surrounding Mr Moto.

The news of today's prison sentences was received without enthusiasm outside Malabo. In South Africa, Foreign Minister Dlamini Zuma said his government had "noted the judgement and sentence meted out to eight South African ... for their alleged involvement in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea." The government would ensure that consular services and assistance were provided to their citizens.

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