British mercenary begs coup court for mercy

British mercenary Simon Mann today based his sole defence on charges of planning to overthrow an African regime on a plea for clemency.

Mann, a former SAS officer, repeated his claim to the court in Equatorial Guinea that he was only a junior member of the team which planned to overthrow its government in 2004.

The argument was laid out by his lawyers as the trial in the Central African country entered its third day.

Equatorial Guinea’s government has accused Mann of masterminding a failed coup plot financed by Mark Thatcher, son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

The government says the accused hoped to install an exiled opposition leader who would open up Africa’s third-biggest oil producer to them.

Mann said yesterday that he knowingly agreed to take part in the coup, but he apologised for his role.

He repeated the apology in court today and argued that he was not a key member of the plot.

“I’m very sorry for it. I regret it very much,” Mann said.

Mann said Nigerian-born British businessman Eli Calil “was very much the boss. So nothing could happen without Calil telling me yes or no.”

He had said yesterday that Thatcher was not only a financier, but an integral part of the group.

Mann said Calil did not invite him, Mann, to a key meeting in Beirut to draw up a document that would serve as Equatorial Guinea’s new constitution because Mann was too “junior.” He added that if the coup had been successful he would only have been named security manager, whereas Calil stood to become the right hand man of the new president.

Mann appeared calm as he stood answering questions, his hands held in front of his stomach.

The morning session continued with testimony from witness Lebanese businessman Mohamed Salaam, who also said he was part of the plot. It was not immediately clear if Salaam has been charged.

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