Zimbabwe deports 'coup mastermind'
to E Guinea: lawyer
by Godfrey Marawanyika
The alleged British mastermind of a foiled coup in Equatorial Guinea has been deported from Zimbabwe to Malabo even though he was still appealing against his extradition, his lawyer said on Friday.
Jonathan Samkange said he had only learnt Simon Mann had already been flown out of Harare as he lodged legal papers on Friday morning relating to a final appeal against his deportation.
Although there was no immediate confirmation from the Zimbabwe authorities, Samkange said Mann had been deported on Wednesday night before his legal team had managed to lodge a final notice of appeal before the supreme court.
"They deported him at night, late Wednesday night. There are affidavits to that effect," the lawyer told AFP.
"The idea was that by the time we filed a notice of appeal he would have gone. This was designed to defeat the notice of our appeal.
"Deporting a person at night is not only mischievous but unlawful."
Mann had lost a bid for freedom earlier this week when a high court judge upheld an earlier ruling by magistrates but he was still pinning his hopes on a final appeal before the supreme court.
The lawyer had turned up at court on Friday morning to file papers relating to the final appeal when he was shown documents confirming the deportation order had been already carried out at the behest of acting attorney general Bharat Patel, who was also one of the judges at the high court ruling.
"The attorney general is the one signed who signed this deportation order. He knew we were filing a notice of appeal but he failed to disclose that they had deported him," said Samkange.
The lawyer said the authorities had deliberately concealed the fact Mann had been moved out of the Chikurubi maximum security prison, near Harare.
"I spoke to the officer in charge of Chikurubi last night and he assured me that he was there."
A former member of Britain's crack SAS troops, Mann was arrested with 61 others when their plane landed at Harare international airport in March 2004.
They were accused of stopping off to pick up weapons from Harare while on their way to Malabo to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the oil-rich Equatorial Guinea with an iron fist since 1979.
Mann said he and his co-accused were on their way to the Democratic Republic of Congo and needed the weapons for a security contract at a mine.
He was sentenced to seven years in jail, but the term was later reduced. Most of his co-accused were released from a Zimbabwean prison in 2005.
The case made headlines worldwide following the arrest in Cape Town in August 2004 of Mark Thatcher, the multi-millionaire son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on charges that he allegedly helped bankroll the abortive coup.
Thatcher pleaded guilty in South Africa to unwittingly helping finance the plot and was fined some 400,000 euros (510,000 dollars). He has since left the country.
Copyright © 2008 Agence France Presse.