Relaymedia

Fair trial impossible in Equatorial Guinea

British businessman Mark Thatcher's lawyer slammed a decision by Equatorial Guinea to try his client in absentia over his alleged role in a coup plot to topple the west African nation's long-servin
Nov 17, 2004 05:13 PM EST

British businessman Mark Thatcher's lawyer slammed a decision by Equatorial Guinea to try his client in absentia over his alleged role in a coup plot to topple the west African nation's long-serving ruler.

"Anything is to be expected from these people, you cannot get a fair trial in there (Equatorial Guinea)," Peter Hodes said after Malabo announced that the son of British former prime minister Margaret Thatcher would be tried long distance.

Thatcher is facing charges related to the alleged coup plot in a South African court.

In a separate case, he has also been subpoenaed by Equatorial Guinean authorities to answer questions from them in a South African court about his supposed role in a bid to oust Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema.

His lawyers, however, opposed the subpoena, arguing that it would be an extension of a trial in Equatorial Guinea where eight South Africans, a six-man Armenian air crew and five Equatorial Guineans have been on trial on similar charges.

When the trial reopened Tuesday in Malabo, eight further names were added to the list, including Thatcher's.

Hodes said the latest development strengthened the case against the subpoena.

"That is interesting, it does prove my scepticism," Hodes said.

A full bench of the Cape High Court has yet to give its verdict on whether Thatcher should comply with the subpoena.

Thatcher was arrested in August at his luxury home in Cape Town for allegedly contributing $275,000 to help finance the plot in Equatorial Guinea.

A defence lawyer in Malabo, Fabian Nsue Nguema, said: "Eight new names have been added to the list of accused, including Britain's Mark Thatcher who will be tried in absentia."

Another group of 68 suspected mercenaries are currently being held in a Zimbabwe prison after being arrested while allegedly en route to Malabo to stage the coup.