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1982: Seychelles coup leader guilty of hijack

Mercenary leader "Colonel Mad Mike" Hoare has been found guilty of hijacking a plane to escape from an aborted coup attempt in the Seychelles.

He and six other men were found guilty of unlawfully seizing a plane, interfering with the safety of its passengers and disrupting procedures at Durban Airport, South Africa.

After a four-and a-half month trial at Natal Supreme Court in Pietermaritzburg, they face sentences of 10 to 15 years each although the charges could attract terms of up to 30 years.

Hoare, an Irish-born soldier - famous for his exploits in the Congo in the 1960s - led a group of 50 men to take over the archipelago in the Indian Ocean last November.

Justice Neville James told the court Hoare, 63, was "an unscrupulous man with a highly cavalier attitude to the truth".

Hoare - who achieved the rank of captain during World War II and has since lived in South Africa - conducted his own defence towards the end of the trial.

Mad Mike's accomplices

Another 34 mercenaries who fled the independent, socialist island-state were found guilty of one charge - endangering the plane and passengers.

Five men involved in the coup were detained in the Seychelles. One of them has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and the others have been condemned to death.

Two others who had been on board escaped charges because they turned gave evidence for the prosecution.

But the judge said there was no evidence to support Hoare's claims that the South African Government was involved in the coup.

Customs officials at the airport of Mahe - the main island - uncovered the operation when they noticed guns and ammunition concealed in luggage owned by the mercenaries posing variously as tourists, a touring rugby team and members of a beer-drinking group.

In the subsequent gun battle the men took over the airport for a couple of hours and seized a packed Air India jet liner to take them back to South Africa.

In Context
Mad Mike Hoare was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment two days later.

The other mercenaries received sentences of between six months and two-and-a-half years.

On the same day South African Prime Minister P W Botha implicated the country's National Intelligence Service in the coup.

He said action would be taken against the officers involved.

A three nation Commission of Inquiry was set up by the UN Security Council to investigate the coup.

The UN report concluded South African defence agencies had been involved in the attempted takeover, including supplying weapons and ammunition.

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