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24 Convicted in Equatorial Guinea

From Associated Press

A court in Equatorial Guinea convicted 24 men and sentenced them to prison for an alleged coup plot but waived the death penalty for two top figures.

The court’s rejection of death penalties requested by prosecutors potentially strengthens Equatorial Guinea’s bid to extradite an alleged financier of the plot: Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s regime, which has ruled for 25 years, accuses Mark Thatcher and other financiers, most of them British, of commissioning scores of mercenaries in a takeover plot in the West African nation, which is the continent’s third-largest oil producer.

The financial backers intended to install an opposition figure as a puppet leader, Equatorial Guinea says.

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The alleged plot was exposed by South African intelligence services in March, leading to the arrests of about 90 alleged mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea and Zimbabwe.

On Friday, 21 shackled, handcuffed defendants listened as Judge Salvador Ondo Nkumu read verdicts and sentences of various lengths, and some were acquitted. Several others were convicted in absentia.

South African arms dealer Nick du Toit, accused by prosecutors of leading an advance team for the coup plot, was sentenced to 34 years in prison instead of death.

Severo Moto Nsa, the opposition figure whom the coup plotters allegedly intended to install as president, was sentenced to 63 years instead of death. He was sentenced in absentia.

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