Mercenary Simon Mann's family 'delighted' over pardon

Liam Creedon,Press Association
Tuesday 03 November 2009 14:24 GMT
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(AFP/Getty Images)

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The family of former British soldier Simon Mann spoke today of their delight after he was granted a full pardon for his part in a failed coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.

Mann, 57, was sentenced to a 34-year jail term after admitting conspiring to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, leader of the tiny West African country.

A statement released by the Mann family read: "The family is absolutely delighted that Simon has been pardoned and is to be released shortly."

The statement continued: "Everyone is profoundly grateful to the President and the Government of Equatorial Guinea.

"The whole family is overjoyed at the prospect of finally welcoming Simon home after five-and-a-half long years away."

Mann was granted the full pardon on humanitarian grounds, a statement on the website of Equatorial Guinea's Information Ministry said.

The mercenary has been held in the country's notorious Black Beach prison and is expected to be released later today. He will then be free to return to the UK.

A family spokesman said Mann was due to arrive home "in the next few days".

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We have been informed of the imminent release of Simon Mann.

"We understand this was a personal decision by the President of Equatorial Guinea on humanitarian grounds."

Mann was sentenced in July last year following a high-profile trial.

The former SAS officer was accused of masterminding an operation to oust President Obiang.

The old Etonian was originally arrested with around 70 other people, mostly former soldiers, when their aircraft arrived at an airport in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, in March 2004.

The plan was to put opposition leader Severo Moto, who is exiled in Madrid, in power and gain control over the country's oil wealth.

At first Mann denied that the group had come to collect weapons for a coup.

His lawyers claimed they were on their way to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help secure diamond mines.

He was jailed for seven years in Zimbabwe for conspiring to buy weapons of war.

Mann said he suffered a violent abduction in February from Chikrubi prison in Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea.

He has always insisted that he was not the main man behind the plot.

Equatorial Guinea held its first trial into the alleged plot in August 2004.

South African arms dealer Nick Du Toit was sentenced to 34 years in prison as a result of the case.

Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of former prime minister Baroness Thatcher, was given a suspended sentence in South Africa in relation to the funding of Mann's operation, though he has always denied any knowledge that a coup was being plotted.

During his trial Mann told the court the ex-prime minister's son was "part of the management team" behind the failed plot and "not just an investor".

Four other men - Mr du Toit, Sergio Cardoso, Jose Domingos and George Alerson were also granted pardons for their part in the plot.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Obono Olo, who was the attorney general who prosecuted the coup plotters, said Mann and his accomplices would be freed at some point today.

He denied rumours that Mann was unwell, telling the Associated Press that he was "fine, fit."

The country is Africa's third biggest oil producer but many of its people remain poor.

It is also considered to be among the continent's worst violators of human rights.

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