Thatcher turns up at court in bid to block coup-plot questions
Wednesday 27 October 2004
Dressed in a blue blazer and tapping a pen on his knee, a defiant Sir Mark Thatcher appeared in court yesterday to fight an attempt to force him to answer questions about his alleged role in a coup plot.
The son of Baroness Thatcher made notes and listened intently as his legal team presented an 80-page argument to the High Court in South Africa in an effort to overturn a subpoena obtained on behalf of the government of Equatorial Guinea. Prosecutors in the oil-rich west African state want to ask Sir Mark about a coup attempt he is alleged to have helped fund by buying aircraft to carry mercenaries seeking to overthrow President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
Barristers acting for Sir Mark claimed that the demand would prejudice his forthcoming trial in South Africa on charges of breaking a law banning residents from aiding foreign military action. Alan Bruce-Brand, for Sir Mark, said he was defending his client's "right to remain silent". The lawyer told the court: "It is contended by our legal team that this questioning is an inappropriate and improper procedure."
The appearance of Sir Mark at the beginning of the two-day hearing to decide the validity of the subpoena issued by the South African justice ministry, had not been expected at the start of what will be a long and expensive legal saga.
But the presence of television cameras in the court - the first time that a case has been televised live in South Africa - is likely to have been deemed an unmissable chance for the defendant to protest his innocence. The smartly dressed businessman made no comment as he left court, besieged by cameras and reporters.
Equatorial Guinea has said it may seek to extradite Sir Mark. South African officials have already said they believe Sir Mark would receive a fair trial in Equatorial Guinea, despite claims that some of the 19 defendants on trial there accused of complicity in the plot have made confessions under torture. No request for the extradition of the former prime minister's son has yet been made, but his lawyers claimed that any trial in Equatorial Guinea would be unfair.
Peter Hodes, a member of the defence team, said: "What we are dealing with in Equatorial Guinea is a military tribunal, or there is a good possibility that it is."
Sir Mark was arrested at his luxury home in Cape Town in August by South African police investigating foreign involvement in the plot to replace President Nguema, an ageing despot, with Severo Moto, an exiled opposition leader.
The main allegation likely to be faced by Sir Mark is understood to be that he provided £145,000 towards the cost of the coup attempt, led by Simon Mann, a former SAS officer.
The money is alleged to have been used to lease an aircraft to fly Mr Moto to Equatorial Guinea and pay for transport for Mann and 67 mercenaries.
Last month a Zimbabwean court sentenced Mann, a friend of Sir Mark, to seven years in jail on charges of illegally obtaining weapons, allegedly for the coup.
Sir Mark, who faces 15 years in prison if convicted in South Africa, maintains that although he did make a payment to a business partner subsequently implicated in the plot, he believed he was making an investment in an air ambulance service. The two-day hearing in Cape Town will decide whether the Briton, who has lived in South Africa for nine years, should face the Guinean government's questions through a South African magistrate.
The lawyers for Sir Mark said they did not know when a judgment in the "very difficult case" could be expected.
- 1 Cara Delevigne addresses awkward interview on Good Day Sacramento
- 2 Model's video shoot on the beach interrupted by sudden landing of a group of illegal migrants
- 3 The difference between a psychopath and a sociopath
- 4 MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
- 5 Living in Spain and commuting to London 'cheaper than actually working in London'
Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
Israel accused of killing 75 children during day of 'carnage' and war crimes in Gaza war
Australia to impose 24-hour curfew on all cats to protect endangered species
Walter Palmer: Cecil the lion killer revealed to be American dentist
MH370: Boeing 777 wing that could match missing plane found on the French island of Reunion
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
Calais crisis: For desperate migrants it is 'England or death' as they brave dogs, riot police and speeding trains
£30 to £32k : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Trainer / IT Trainer to join an a...
£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This world leader in Online Pro...
£17550 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a standalone role based...
£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...