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Last Updated: Friday, 7 May 2004, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Zimbabwe unshackles 'mercenaries'
A group of alleged mercenaries are led to a hall at Chikurubi maximum prison
The men were accused of trying to escape from jail
A Zimbabwean court has ordered leg irons and handcuffs to be removed from 70 alleged mercenaries being held in the country.

The men have been kept in shackles for the past week after the Zimbabwe government said it had uncovered a plot by the men to break out of jail.

They are accused of plotting to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

But the men say they were travelling to the Democratic Republic of Congo to work as security guards.

A lawyer for the men told AFP news agency that the handcuffs and leg irons will be removed immediately.

Torture claims

The group have been held since their aircraft was detained at Harare International Airport in March, when it stopped to refuel and pick up military equipment.

They are mostly former fighters during South Africa's apartheid era.

They are accused of being contracted by Equatorial Guinea opposition leader Severo Moto to stage a coup against President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

The Zimbabwean authorities have begun legal moves to have them extradited to Equatorial Guinea, where another group is being held on suspicion of being involved in the same plot.

Human rights groups say they believe at least one of the suspects held in custody in Equatorial Guinea has been tortured to death.

Equatorial Guinea on coup alert
08 Mar 04 |  Africa
Country profile: Equatorial Guinea
28 Feb 04 |  Country profiles

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