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Verdict Expected Friday in Equatorial Guinea Coup Trial

The verdict in the trial of 14 foreign mercenaries accused of plotting to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea is expected Friday.

An American diplomat observing the trial says the verdict was delayed Friday morning, but is expected to be delivered before the end of the day.

The accused leader of the group, Nick Du Toit, could face the death penalty if he is found guilty. The other men could face jail sentences of 26 - 86 years.

The 14 foreigners, mainly from South African and Armenia, were arrested last March and have been held in the capital Malabo. The state prosecutor says the men were organizing to remove president Teodoro Obiang Nguema and replace him with exiled opposition leader Severo Moto.

President Obiang has ruled the tiny oil-rich African nation since 1979 when he overthrew his uncle and seized power.

Many foreign observers have accused the government of Equatorial Guinea of siphoning money from the newly acquired oil revenues.

Earlier this week, Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British Prime Minister, was ordered to answer allegations of financing the coup attempt in front of the court in Equatorial Guinea. Mr. Thatcher was to appear before the verdict was rendered, but his lawyers asked for delay, saying they needed to review the summons to see if they want to appeal.