Equatorial Guinea is defending the execution of four men found guilty of trying to assassinate the president. The execution has been criticized by the Obama administration and Amnesty International.

Equatorial Guinea says there was nothing wrong with its speedy trial and execution of four men convicted of trying to kill President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.

Former military officers were executed within an hour of their verdict before a military tribunal.

Amnesty International said the confessions of the military officers were extracted through torture after the men were abducted in Benin in January. The human rights group also criticized the speediness of the trial and execution.

Equatorial Guinea's delegate to the United Nations, Anatolio Ndong Mba, says the men returned to the country on their own with plans to overthrow the government.

"Some say that these people were abducted from Benin," said Anatolio Ndong Mba. "You will find that they say that they are from Nigeria, or they will say that they reside in Cameroon. Where were they? In Cameroon, in Nigeria, or in Benin? And because they came back to Equatorial Guinea to try to perpetrate other action they were captured and judged."

The executions come at a moment when Africa's only Spanish-speaking country is trying to reform an image of corruption and repression.  President Obiang has led the oil-exporting nation autocratically, outlasting numerous botched attempts to unseat him since the 1979 coup that brought him to power.

One quarter of the country's population live in exile. In Madrid, opposition leaders released a statement saying they were revolted by the court's refusal to offer the men a chance for appeal.

Mba says this was a military tribunal and should be judged differently than a civil case, given the severity of the accusations.

"The legislation set out in the constitution specifically article thirteen sub-section eight, paragraph two of this basic law provides for the application of capital punishment for crimes such as judged in this cause," said Mba. "That decision and actions have complied with applicable legal provisions in the country."

The Obama administration says it respects Equatorial Guinea's right to defend its national security but believes the trial failed to meet minimum human rights guarantees. U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says Equatorial Guinea must commit itself to upholding the rights in its own constitution and its obligations under international human rights law.

Mba says foreign governments are naive about the dangers facing President Obiang.

"Unfortunately, those who criticize my country most of them they don't know the country," said Anatolio Ndong Mba. "I question even many of them, they don't even know where it is situated. They haven't been there. They have not been in Equatorial Guinea, all what they read in some presses. They don't even know what is going on. "

In a written statement, President Obiang says the men were convicted and executed immediately due to the imminent danger to him, his family, and his government. He says he greatly laments what he calls "estimations of faults in the legal process and the prompt execution of the convicted."

The president says he hopes the United States and other donors understand the severity of the danger to national security and his personal security because Equatorial Guinea still needs assistance to implement ongoing reforms.