On Equatorial Guinea, the trial of mercenaries alleged to have plotted a coup in coordination with Simon Mann, currently standing trial in Zimbabwe, has begun. I have been trying to get a clear picture from news reports of what has been happening, but reports conflict. IOL explains:
Reporting of the case is difficult as South African journalists have been denied entry to the country and an agency report on Monday suggested Du Toit had agreed to the main charges.
Nick Du Toit and others have not let been asked to plead on charges. Du Toit has apparently been extensively crossexamined. IOL reports:
Alleged mercenary Nick du Toit denied in an Equatorial Guinea court on Monday that he had organised an attempted coup, said South Africa's ambassador Mokgethi Monaisa.
When the prosecutor put it to him his denial was inconsistent with a confession he had allegedly signed in prison in Malabo, Du Toit said his evidence in court was right and he knew nothing about a confession.
Du Toit's denial of the main charge against him was relayed to the Cape Argus by Monaisa, who is attending the trial.
Whereas South Africa's News 24 reports:
Du Toit told the court on Monday, when the trial opened, that he was in charge of logistics for an attempted putsch to oust the long-time leader of the oil-rich central African nation. . . .
The South African told Equatorial Guinea's attorney general on Monday that he had accepted the job at the request of Simon Mann, the alleged leader of 70 other suspected mercenaries arrested in Zimbabwe days after Obiang announced the coup had been thwarted.
The mercenaries held in Zimbabwe were allegedly due to join Du Toit and the others in Equatorial Guinea to carry out the coup.
Du Toit, who served with the South African special forces in the apartheid era, was evasive on Monday when questioned about his exact role, in particular whether he was involved in the planned attack on a police barracks.
"It was more than six months ago," he said. "I don't remember any more but I think so."
He also said his co-accused were not aware of what was being planned and that he had just asked them to meet people at the airport.
The state prosecutor said on Monday he is seeking the death penalty for Du Toit and prison terms ranging from 26 years to 86 years for the other defendants.
Here's the Guardian's take on the testimony:
Prosecutors said the leaders planned to oust President Obiang using arms obtained in Zimbabwe and soldiers recruited in South Africa. The plotters allegedly hoped to replace him with Severo Moto, an opposition figure living in exile in Spain.
Mr du Toit repeated much of his previous confession in court today, saying he was to have been paid $1m for supplying information on the whereabouts of the president and other coup targets. He was also to have arranged for vehicles for the mercenaries, he said.
"I was told he [Mr Moto] would land in an aircraft 30 minutes after the main force had landed," Mr du Toit said in his opening testimony.
The defendant said that the alleged coup leader, British ex-SAS officer Simon Mann, had told him that the Spanish government would recognise the Moto government. "It had the blessing of some American higher-up politicians," he told the court. . . .
The criminal charges were read out to the largely English-speaking defendants in Spanish only, after an electronic translation system failed, and they had access to lawyers during only three hours shortly before the trial.
It will be interesting to see whether any evidence is offered other that the testimony of the prisoners trying to save their own lives.