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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 12:54 GMT
Mann 'confesses' to African coup
Simon Mann (right)
Mann was moved from a jail in Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea
British mercenary Simon Mann, who is in prison awaiting trial for plotting a coup in Equatorial Guinea, has confessed to involvement.

He said he was not the "main man" behind plans to overthrow the West African nation's government in 2004.

Speaking to Channel 4 News, the ex-SAS officer also alleged Sir Mark Thatcher was "part of the team".

Channel 4 overturned a ban on the interview, which Mann's lawyers claimed may have been given "under duress".

Mann's lawyer Anthony Kerman had argued, on behalf of his family, that he may have been forced to take part by prison authorities.

But the court injunction was overturned by Channel 4 on Friday and the interview, in which Mann himself denied coercion, was broadcast on Tuesday night.

Channel 4 said Mann's sister and brother had gone to Equatorial Guinea and upon their return, his sister told the High Court that he did indeed wish for the interview to be broadcast.

Simon Mann is an old friend of mine for whom I have the utmost sympathy throughout this whole ghastly process.
Sir Mark Thatcher

The 55-year-old ex-Etonian was interviewed at the notorious Black Beach prison in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.

He said he was the "manager, not the architect" of a plot to oust Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

He went on to name those who were involved in the conspiracy.

'Acutely distressed'

Mann insisted his old friend Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was "part of the team".

Sir Mark was fined and received a suspended sentence in South Africa for his involvement in the coup.

He has always claimed he was an unwitting conspirator and that as far as he knew, he was helping finance a new company - an air ambulance business in West Africa.

I blame myself most for simply not saying 'cut' two months before we were arrested
Simon Mann

In response to Mann's allegations, Sir Mark told Channel 4 News: "Simon Mann is an old friend of mine for whom I have the utmost sympathy throughout this whole ghastly process.

"Clearly what's happening to him now is very worrying and he must be frightened and acutely distressed, poor man.

"I have nothing to add to the statements that I gave to the relevant authorities in 2004, which are a matter of public record."

'Violent abduction'

Mann went on to categorically deny rumours that EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson and former Tory peer Jeffrey Archer were involved in the plot.

He told Channel 4 News he had to "carry the can".

"I blame myself most for simply not saying 'cut' two months before we were arrested," he said.

"That's what I should have done, and there I was bloody stupid. Mea culpa (my fault)."

I regret it all terribly. You go tiger shooting, and you don't expect the tiger to win
Simon Mann

Mann was jailed in Zimbabwe after arriving from South Africa on board a plane carrying weapons in 2004.

Up until the interview, he had maintained he was going to help guard a mine in Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last month, he was extradited from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea without the knowledge of his lawyers. During the interview, he described it as an "illegal violent abduction".

He went on to apologise for his role in the plot.

"I regret it all terribly," he said. "You go tiger shooting, and you don't expect the tiger to win.

"I've been saying how sorry I am to everybody for four years now actually. I'm going to write it on my forehead - sorry."

Equatorial Guinea, an oil-rich former Spanish colony, has been ruled by President Obiang since he seized power from his uncle in a coup in 1979.

Corruption watchdog Transparency International has put the tiny state in its top 10 corrupt states.

Mann is due to stand trial next week.



SEE ALSO
Profile: Simon Mann
10 Sep 04 |  UK
Country profile: Equatorial Guinea
26 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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