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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 12:49 GMT
SA court drops coup plot charges
Teodoro Obiang Nguema,  President of Equatorial Guinea
President Obiang Nguema has ruled Equatorial Guinea since 1979
A South African court has dismissed charges against eight suspected mercenaries accused of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea in 2004.

The judge in Pretoria said the state had not proved its case against the defendants - all South Africans.

Their lawyers had said South African officials had tacitly backed the failed plot. The government denies this.

The eight were among a group of men arrested in 2004 in Zimbabwe, allegedly on their way to Equatorial Guinea.

They were said to be purchasing arms in preparation ahead of a coup against Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of the former Spanish colony.

Sixty-one of the group returned to South Africa in 2005 after spending more than a year in a Zimbabwean prison.

Map of South Africa
The alleged coup leader, British former SAS officer Simon Mann, remained in Zimbabwe, where he was convicted.

He is serving a four-year prison term for buying weapons without a licence.

Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former UK Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher, was fined and received a suspended sentence in South Africa for his involvement in the affair.

Twenty-three other suspected mercenaries have been convicted in Equatorial Guinea in connection with the coup plot.

President Obiang Nguema seized power himself in a coup in 1979.

Profile: Simon Mann
22 Jul 04 |  UK

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