- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 4, 2004

MALABO, Equatorial Guinea — A team of state prosecutors was set to leave Malabo for South Africa to question Mark Thatcher over his reported involvement in a bid to oust President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a government official said.

Another legal team from the tiny, oil-rich country on Africa’s west coast was in Armenia to probe a local air transport company’s involvement in the same coup plot, a judicial official said yesterday.

Mr. Thatcher, 51, son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested in a dawn raid on his luxury Cape Town home on Aug. 25 and charged with bankrolling a mercenary plot to oust Mr. Nguema, in power since 1979.

“A delegation from the public ministry led by Attorney General Jose Olo Obono will … travel to South Africa” to question Mr. Thatcher, said the source, who asked not to be named.

According to South Africa’s Star newspaper, the team would arrive today in South Africa and would first meet with investigators from the elite Scorpions’ unit in Pretoria before traveling to Cape Town, where Mr. Thatcher had been under house arrest.

Last week, Mr. Thatcher put up 2 million rand ($300,000) in bail and his house arrest was lifted, but his movements are still restricted to the Cape Town region, and he has to report daily to the police.

A lawyer for Mr. Thatcher said his legal counsel were waiting to see what the Equatorial Guinean officials wanted to ask their client.

“We read in the press that the Equatorial Guinea officials have sent a list of questions to the Department of Justice. We asked to see those questions before allowing them to see our client,” lawyer Peter Hodes was quoted by Sapa news agency as saying.

Nineteen persons accused of plotting to topple Mr. Nguema have been on trial in Malabo since last month. Their trial was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday to take into account new developments including the arrest of Mr. Thatcher in South Africa.

On Aug. 27, a court in Zimbabwe absolved most of the 70 men on trial there over the purported plot.

Mr. Thatcher is due in court in South Africa on Nov. 25 to answer charges he contributed money to the plot, whose mastermind, Briton Simon Mann, is a friend and neighbor in the plush Cape Town suburb of Constantia.

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