BRITISH Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has disclosed that his government knew about the alleged plot to overthrow Equatorial Guinea President Obiang Nguema at least five weeks before mercenaries were arrested in March for planning the coup.
His disclosure, made during question time in the British parliament last week and reported in the Observer newspaper, has raised questions about British involvement in the plot. It also raised questions as to why the oil-rich country was not warned, seeing that the two countries have full diplomatic relations.
The government of Equatorial Guinea yesterday demanded an explanation from its British counterparts. Second Deputy Prime Minister Ricardo Mangue Obama Nfube said the British government ought to provide more details about the alleged plot.
Also yesterday, Equatorial Guinean prosecutors added the name of Mark Thatcher, businessman son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, to the list of 19 alleged mercenaries on trial for the alleged coup plot. Thatcher, who is fighting an application to extradite him to Equatorial Guinea, will be tried in absentia.
He is also due to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court in Cape Town on November 25 on charges of breaking SA's antimercenary laws.
Nick du Toit, a co-accused in the Guinean trial,yesterday retracted his confession of involvement in the alleged plot, saying he was tortured into making it.
"There was no attempted coup d'Ã©tat," he told a court in Malabo. "I had to tell these people what they wanted. It was the only way to stay alive," he said.