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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 May, 2005, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Zimbabwe frees S Africa plotters
Mercenaries
The men say they were providing security for a mine
Sixty-two South Africans linked to an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea last year have been freed from a Zimbabwe jail.

The men arrived at the South African border on Sunday morning, where they were taken to be processed by customs officials, their lawyer said.

The men spent a year in prison after their arrest last March on an aircraft allegedly bound for Equatorial Guinea.

They have denied being involved in the coup plot.

They say they were recruited to provide security for a Congolese mine.

Their sentences expired earlier in the week but their release was delayed due to what the Zimbabwean authorities called a security risk.

Still in jail

Three other men were arrested at the same time. A Briton, Simon Mann, is serving a four-year sentence, and two South African pilots are due to be released in two months.
Simon Mann (middle) with other mercenaries

In Equatorial Guinea, 14 other people were found guilty of charges linked to the coup plot, including plot leader Nick du Toit who received a 34-year jail sentence.

Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British prime minister, appeared in court in South Africa last month to answer questions over his role in the alleged plot.

He was given a suspended jail term and fined after agreeing a plea bargain to help investigators.

The conduct of the trials in Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea were criticised in the West, amid allegations of torture and forced confessions.



SEE ALSO:
SA keen to shed mercenary image
13 Jan 05 |  Africa
Court blocks E Guinea coup case
06 Apr 05 |  Africa
Zimbabwe to free 'mercenaries'
03 Mar 05 |  Africa



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