SA to help men in EG trial

A high-level delegation from South Africa will leave for Equatorial Guinea at the weekend to help ensure a fair trial for eight nationals arrested on coup-plotting charges, said foreign affairs on Friday.

The team will leave for the capital city of Malabo on Sunday and comprise members of the foreign and justice ministries as well as the national prosecuting authority.

Ronnie Mamoepa of foreign affairs said their objective would be to "assist in ensuring a fair and proper trial for the eight South Africans detained on allegations of a coup plot".

The decision to send a delegation from South Africa came after talks last week in Pretoria between South African President Thabo Mbeki and Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the long-serving ruler of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

Worried there won't be a fair trial

The alleged coup was thwarted in March when 15 suspected mercenaries - eight of them South Africans - were arrested in Malabo and another 70 in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, when their plane made a stopover, to pick up weapons.

The 70 men held in Zimbabwe maintain the weapons were to be used to guard a diamond mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Relatives of the detainees have voiced concern that the men do not stand any chance of a fair trial in Equatorial Guinea and may face a possible death sentence.

Their lawyers have cited reports by the International Bar Association and rights groups such as Amnesty International to argue that the judiciary in Equatorial Guinea is not independent.

[Source: News24.com, Sourth Africa, 23Jul04]

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