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Last Updated: Friday, 26 November, 2004, 21:58 GMT
Coup plotters jailed in E Guinea
Nick du Toit in court
Nick du Toit says his confession was extracted under torture
Two leading figures in a plot to oust Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms by a court.

Plot leader Nick du Toit was jailed for 34 years, while opposition leader Severo Moto, who is in exile in Spain, was given 63 years in absentia.

Both men escaped the death penalty demanded by the prosecution.

Twelve other defendants were found guilty of a role in the plot in Sub-Saharan Africa's third oil producer.

The government of the tiny state, made up of islands and mainland jungle, denies widespread accusations of corruption and human rights abuses.

Death plot

Prosecutors in the capital, Malabo, had argued the convicted men planned to kill President Nguema and install Moto.

Du Toit was convicted on charges including terrorism, crimes against the head of state and possession of guns and explosives.

Map of South Africa

The 48-year-old South African, a former special forces officer, had originally confessed to leading the advance party in the coup attempt in March.

He retracted his statement earlier this month, claiming he was tortured

While in custody, he told the BBC he had been involved in the plot but claimed he played only a minor role.

Four other South Africans were sentenced to 17 years in prison, while three were acquitted.

Six Armenians received jail terms of between 14 and 24 years, while two Equatorial Guineans were sentenced to 16 months in prison and three others were acquitted.

Eight members of Moto's self-proclaimed government in exile also received 52 years each.

British mercenary Simon Mann has already been convicted of trying to buy weapons illegally in Zimbabwe on his way to carry out the coup.


Lawyers for the South African defendants said they would appeal.

We are in shock and not sure yet exactly what is going on
Marlise Bezuidenhout, Du Toit's daughter
"We want to bring to light for the whole world to see all the irregularities that have marked this trial... the fact that the prisoners did not have free access to their lawyers and the torture that they endured in jail," lawyer Fabian Nsue Nguema told Reuters news agency.

Du Toit's family said they were too distraught to react to the verdicts.

"We are in shock and not sure yet exactly what is going on," his daughter, Marlise Bezuidenhout, told AFP.

The South African foreign ministry said it would continue to "ensure consular services and assistance are provided to the South African prisoners in Malabo".

Before the sentencing, South Africa said it would intervene should the death penalty be meted out to Du Toit. The death penalty is banned in South Africa.

Thatcher sought

Correspondents say the court's decision not to impose the death penalty could help Equatorial Guinea achieve the extradition of the most prominent figure allegedly involved in the plot - Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Mark Thatcher
Sir Mark has been forced to stay in South Africa

Malabo Judge Onco Ncumu said Equatorial Guinea should pursue all those accused of involvement in the plot, including Sir Mark.

Du Toit said in his BBC interview he had met Sir Mark to discuss the sale of helicopters but there was no mention of any coup.

Earlier this week, a South African court postponed a hearing at which Sir Mark was due to have answered questions from Equatorial Guinea, which accuses him of helping to finance the plot.

The 51-year-old businessman said he felt like "a corpse" while proceedings continued. He denies any involvement in the plot.

Judge hands coup plotters lengthy jail terms

Mark Thatcher SA case postponed
25 Nov 04 |  Africa
Death penalty call in E Guinea
19 Nov 04 |  Africa


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