Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Eton Rifles

I’ve been keeping an eye on reports of the trial in Equatorial Guinea of Simon Mann, accused of leading the group of mercenaries involved in the attempted coup in that country in 2004. Well yesterday Mann was sentenced to 34 years in prison for his part in the plan, although there are rumours that he will get an early release in a deal with the British government. He is an old Etonian mercenary after all! Despite being held in the notorious Black Beach prison it turns out that life for Mann has not been quite as hard as it has been for other prisoners held there. He seems to have an exercise bike in his cell, and is also said to regularly have lunch with the country’s security minister. Many of the other prisoners probably don’t get lunch at all.

The evidence given by Mann was interesting, although we probably have to take into account his desire to get as light a sentence as possible. He claimed that the Spanish government knew about, and approved, the plot – along with the South African government. He said that the organisers were keen to complete the operation before the Spanish elections in 2004 whilst Jose Maria Aznar was still in office. Mann also claimed that Mark Thatcher was part of the management team of the plot, something which sounds far fetched but could perhaps help to explain the failure of the whole operation. Thatcher was expelled from South Africa because of his involvement, and now apparently lives in Spain; happily not in my barrio. I read somewhere the other week that he hasn’t been paying his rent either, the naughty boy. Given the keenness of the Spanish government to be friends with Equatorial Guinea’s dictatorial regime, I wonder whether his presence in Spain will eventually become as inconvenient for the Spanish government as that of Severo Moto?

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