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08.06.2019 Chad

Chad jails 11 'mercenaries' over E. Guinea coup bid

By AFP
Teodoro Obiang Nguema, 77, has seen off a string of attempted coups since seizing power in 1979.  By Don EMMERT (AFP)
JUN 8, 2019 CHAD
Teodoro Obiang Nguema, 77, has seen off a string of attempted coups since seizing power in 1979. By Don EMMERT (AFP)

A court in Chad has handed 20-year jail terms to 11 men accused of taking part in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea in December 2017.

The court of appeal in Djamena handed down the sentences on Thursday.

The defendants, all Chadians, were found guilty of "a mercenary attempt to assist a coup d'etat," court president Yenan Timothe said.

Only four of the 11 convicted were in court to hear the sentencing.

The seven others were tried in absentia, and warrants have been issued for their arrest, a judicial source said.

One of the judges, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the 11 were Chadians who had been recruited by a "mastermind."

They were picked up after the Chadian intelligence services compared their requests for a document authorising them to travel to Equatorial Guinea.

"They all had the same date and destination, which means that the preparatory work for this (coup) attempt began in Chad," the source said, without giving further details.

Last Friday, a court in Equatorial Guinea handed down terms of up to 96 years to more than 130 people also accused of involvement.

The heaviest sentences, of 96 years, were handed down to three Equatorial Guinean nationals accused of being the masterminds and who live in exile in Spain.

Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa's top oil producers but the bulk of the population of some 1.2 million lives in poverty.

The country has been chronically unstable since gaining independence from Spain in 1968.

Its iron-fisted president, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, 77, is Africa's longest-serving leader.

Map of Equatorial Guinea.  By AFP (AFP) Map of Equatorial Guinea. By AFP (AFP)

He seized power in 1979 and has survived or thwarted a string of attempted coups.

Critics accuse him of brutal repression, election fraud and corruption.

According to the authorities, a group of foreign mercenaries had plotted to attack Obiang at his palace at Koete Mongomo, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) from the borders with Gabon, Guinea and Cameroon, on December 24, 2017.

Three days later, Cameroonian police arrested around 30 armed men at the border while Equatorial Guinea carried out a wave of arrests on its own territory.

In January 2018, Obiang dismissed the country's ambassador to Chad and fired four regime officials, including one of his grandsons, Constantino Obiang Mba, who was director general of the state-owned telecommunications company, Getesa.

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