Thatcher 'coup plot' trial postponed

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The Independent Online

Sir Mark Thatcher's trial on charges that he helped finance a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea was postponed today.

Sir Mark Thatcher's trial on charges that he helped finance a failed coup in Equatorial Guinea was postponed today.

The case had been due to start in Cape Town, South Africa, but was put back to next April.

If the allegations against Sir Mark are proven he could be jailed in South Africa or face extradition to oil rich Equatorial Guinea in west Africa to face further accusations.

Yesterday, a judge ruled that the son of former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher will have to answer questions from the West African nation's investigators.

Cape Town Judge Dion van Zyl dismissed a request by Sir Mark to prevent the questioning.

The judge ruled that the South African government had not infringed his right to a fair trial or his right to silence to avoid self-incrimination.

Prosecutors in Equatorial Guinea said last week that they had charged Sir Mark in connection with the alleged coup plot, and would seek his extradition from South Africa.

Equatorial Guinea attorney general Jose Olo Obono said Sir Mark was accused of helping to finance the coup attempt, and that he was added to a list of 19 other defendants on trial in Equatorial Guinea.

Sir Mark was arrested at his Cape Town home in August and charged in South Africa with violating its anti-mercenary law.

During yesterday's hearing, lawyers for Sir Mark also argued that his questioning could lead to the conviction and consequent execution of Nick Du Toit, the South African mercenary on trial in Equatorial Guinea for his alleged role in the coup attempt.

"It is pure speculation as to whether or not the accused in that trial may be convicted and sentenced," Judge van Zyl said.

Sir Mark's legal team had argued that the subpoena was improperly approved by Justice Minister Brigitte Mabandla.

But Judge van Zyl, in a 45-page judgment, said there was nothing "irrational or unconstitutional" in the way the subpoena was considered or approved.

In an interview with Vanity Fair magazine Sir Mark, 51, continued to deny being involved in the plan to topple the government of Equatorial Guinea.

He said: "I will never be able to do business again. Who will deal with me?

"Thank God my father is not alive to see this."

He added that he felt "like a corpse that's going down the Colorado River and there is nothing I can do about it".

Sir Mark said he still speaks to his mother twice a week by telephone, but refused to disclose what they talk about.

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