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Equatorial Guinea Coup Plotters Sentenced


A court in sub-Saharan Africa's third biggest oil producing nation, Equatorial Guinea, has handed down lengthy jail sentences to a dozen South Africans and Armenians convicted of plotting a coup.

South African Nick du Toit received a sentence of 34 years Friday in the courtroom in Malabo, after being convicted of playing a leading role in the alleged plot to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

At least four other South Africans and six Armenians received sentences of over 10 years. Two Equatorial Guineans on trial were given light sentences, while three others were acquitted.

There was also sentencing in absentia. Opposition leader Severo Moto, who lives in exile in Spain, was sentenced to 63 years in jail, and eight of his aides were sentenced to 52 years. The alleged motive was a share of renegotiated oil contracts. Mr. Moto has been sentenced in prior alleged coup plots, and has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.

Friday, the court said the state should continue to pursue all those suspected of playing a part in the plot, including the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Mark Thatcher, an alleged financier of the mercenaries. He has also denied involvement.

President Nguema has been in power since toppling his own uncle in 1979. His rule has been marked by corruption, human rights abuses and growing oil revenue.

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