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British Mercenary Held in Zimbabwe Loses Extradition Appeal

Lawyers in Zimbabwe representing jailed British mercenary Simon Mann are appealing to the country's high court in Harare to force authorities to produce their client. Sources say the lawyers claim that they have been unable to consult with Mann since he lost an appeal in the Harare High court against his extradition to Equatorial Guinea, where he faces charges of planning a coup. Prison officials in Zimbabwe say he was taken away by police officers soon after that decision Wednesday. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that although Mann's legal team is appealing Wednesday's extradition decision few legal analysts believe he has any chance of avoiding the extradition.

In no court hearing where Simon Mann has been on trial in Zimbabwe has a single piece of evidence been established that he had any connection with Equatorial Guinea, let alone that he was in charge of a group of men who planned a coup d'etat there.

When Mann and 69 South African men were arrested at Harare International Airport as weapons bought from Mr. Mugabe's defense industries were about to be loaded on to their aircraft there was no anti-mercenary legislation in place in Zimbabwe.

The men who had flown in from South Africa told their captors, mostly from Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organization, and later during their trial on immigration offenses, that they were en route to the Democratic Republic of Congo to guard a mine.

Simon Mann, who claimed to have been brutally tortured in detention, in Zimbabwe following his arrest, pleaded guilty to illegal possession of weapons and was sentenced to four years.

At the time of the arrest and trial of the men there was no extradition treaty between Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea. Since it was signed, bankrupt Zimbabwe has received several shipments of fuel from Equatorial Guinea.

During his incarceration in Zimbabwe, the government of Equatorial Guinea applied for Mann's extradition. His defense team objected saying he would not get a fair trial and that torture was common practice in Equatorial Guinea.

Judge Rita Makarau in her dismissal of his appeal said the government of Equatorial Guinea had established Mann had a case to answer for leading a coup plot to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Ngeuma that warranted extradition to face trial there.

A group of mainly South Africans were also arrested in Equatorial Guinea in 2004, and one died in detention shortly after he was incarcerated. A former South African soldier, Nick du Toit, claimed he had been tortured into making a confession. He was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison, in Equatorial Guinea which has one of the worst human rights records in Africa.

Equatorial Guinea canceled its invitation by a U.N. rapporteur on torture to visit the country Wednesday, according to a U.N. press release.

Nearly all Zimbabwe's judges have been appointed since President Robert Mugabe nearly lost elections in 2000 to the new opposition party the Movement for Democratic Change.

Following that election he seized thousands of white-owned farms. Nearly all Zimbabwe's judges have been given formerly white-owned farms.