Ex-SAS man pleads guilty on Zimbabwe arms charge

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The Independent Online

A former SAS member accused by Zimbabwe of leading 70 suspected mercenaries in a coup plot against Equatorial Guinea pleaded guilty yesterday to attempting to possess dangerous weapons. He could face years in jail.

A former SAS member accused by Zimbabwe of leading 70 suspected mercenaries in a coup plot against Equatorial Guinea pleaded guilty yesterday to attempting to possess dangerous weapons. He could face years in jail.

Simon Mann, 51, appearing in a special court convened in Harare's top-security prison, also entered a limited guilty plea to a second charge of purchasing weapons, saying he should only be charged with the attempt since the deal never went through.

Magistrate Mishrod Guvamombe quickly convicted Mann on the first charge. The State Prosecutor, Lawrence Phiri, argued on the second that Mr Mann's deal to purchase the firearms in violation of the firearms law was completed because he had paid about $180,000 (£99,000) for the arms. The fact that he had not taken delivery was immaterial.

Mr Mann's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, said as far as he understood, no further charges would be raised against Mr Mann. The Zimbabwe government had hinted at charging him with conspiring to overthrow a foreign government and with terrorism charges, which could have guaranteed Mr Mann the death penalty were he convicted.

Mr Mann was at Harare airport when his 67 co-accused landed from South Africa. He is accused of planning to load weapons he had bought from Zimbabwe's state arms manufacturer. Mr Mann said the arms were for guarding a mine.

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