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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Zimbabwe to extradite 'plotters'
A group of alleged mercenaries are led to a hall at Chikurubi maximum prison
The men say they are merely mine security guards
Zimbabwe has changed its extradition policy, so that it can send 70 alleged mercenaries for trial in Equatorial Guinea, the government says.

The men are accused of plotting to stage a coup against the Equatorial Guinea government.

They deny the charges and say they were passing through Zimbabwe to start work as security guards in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On Wednesday, Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema flew to Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, for talks with President Robert Mugabe over the fate of the 70 men.

An unnamed offical told AFP news agency that President Mugabe had agreed to extradite the men.

Meanwhile, a judge has ordered an inquiry into claims they were tortured.

Security fears

"It is ordered by this court that an investigation be carried out into allegations of torture and assault," said Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe after pilot Jaap Steyl told the court he had been tortured.

Because of security concerns, the court hearing was in the maximum security Chikurubi prison outside Harare, where the men are being held.

Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo
Equatorial Guinea's president came to power himself in a coup
They are mostly former members of South Africa's apartheid era military forces.

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

Another 15 men are being held in Equatorial Guinea, linked to the same alleged plot.

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




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Barnaby Phillips
"It's a murky plot"



SEE ALSO:
Zimbabwe 70 in prison court
23 Mar 04  |  Africa
Equatorial Guinea on coup alert
08 Mar 04  |  Africa
Country profile: Equatorial Guinea
28 Feb 04  |  Country profiles


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