The defense lawyer for a group of Equatorial Guineans who stood trial
with British mercenary Simon Mann over a failed coup has expressed
doubts about the process and outcome of the trial. The concerns,
expressed the day after the sentencing in the case, add to those of
international human rights groups. Mann was sentenced to 34 years in
jail. Brent Latham has more from our West and Central Africa bureau in
Fabian Nsue Nguema, the defense lawyer for six Equatorial
Guineans who stood trial with British mercenary Simon Mann, says that
the trial was marked by numerous irregularities and human rights
He continues to maintain the innocence of his
clients, and says that government prosecutors did not do enough to
establish that the Guineans conspired with Mann in a 2004 coup plot
designed to take control of the oil-rich nation.
says the Guineans were convicted even though the arms they were accused
of hoarding were never found. He added that the defendants had been
forced into confessions against their will.
Guineans were sentenced to between one and six years. A Lebanese-born
man Mohamed Salaami was jailed for 18 years, for being Mann's main
Other foreigners, including South Africans, were
also sentenced to long jail terms in previous trials related to the
same botched coup attempt.
Human rights watch-dog Amnesty
International has criticized the process of the recently concluded
trial, especially concerning the Guinean defendants. In a statement
released Monday, London-based Amnesty claimed at least two of the
prisoners had been tortured into confessing.
Nsue Nguema said
inside the courtroom, the Guineans were treated like terrorists. He
says that they were forced to sit for hours without being allowed to
move. Nor did they have access to food or water.
who is also the secretary-general of the opposition Popular Union
party, says that the treatment of the Guineans varied greatly from that
provided to Mann. He says Mann had been transferred from prison to a
luxury hotel during the trial, and was given expensive food.
Nguema expressed concern that Mann had been tricked by authorities into
cooperating in exchange for promises of a deal. He said the way Mann
confessed to everything he was accused of may have been evidence of
such an understanding.
During the trial, Mann described himself
as an "employee," and named accomplices he said were the bosses of the
operation. Among those implicated by Mann was Mark Thatcher, son of a
former British prime minister, and exiled Equatorial Guinean politician
The judge declared the case against Thatcher and
other accused conspirators to be open. Thatcher, who is believed to be
residing in Spain, has said that while he was involved in financing the
group for what he believed were security operations, he knew nothing of
the planned coup. He was fined and received a suspended sentence in
South Africa in 2005 for unknowingly helping to finance the plot.
Lebanese businessman described by Mann as the other financial backer of
the group, Ely Calil, is also being sought for extradition and trial.
In an interview published in a British newspaper Tuesday, Calil denied
any wrongdoing, and said Mann's testimony was in his words "pure
fantasy" concocted by Guinean authorities for political reasons.