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Seven years for UK `coup plotter'.

Byline: TIM MOYNIHAN

A FORMER SAS captain was jailed for seven years in Zimbabwe yesterday for conspiring to buy weapons.

Eton and Sandhurst-educated Simon Mann was arrested in Harare in March as he allegedly prepared to launch a coup against the regime in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea.

The plot is also said to have involved Sir Mark Thatcher, a neighbour of Mann, who denies the claim.

Mann, a 51-year-old father of six, admitted trying to order assault rifles, grenades, anti-tank rocket launchers and other weapons from Zimbabwe Defence Industries.

Mann claimed the weapons were to protect a mining operation in war-torn eastern Congo.

At a court hearing last month, Mann was acquit ted of an additional charge of taking possession of the weapons.

Earlier this week Sir Mark, son of former prime minister Baroness Thatcher, was subpoenaed to appear before a magistrate to answer questions relating to the alleged coup. He is free on bail in Cape Town, South Africa. Mann and his co-accused, most of whom were arrested when their ageing Boeing 727 landed at Harare International Airport on March 7, deny they were preparing to launch a coup.

The two pilots were jailed for 16 months yesterday.

The 65 men who were on the plane, convicted of immigration offences, were given 12-month sentences.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ``Although Simon Mann holds British citizenship, he entered Zimbabwe on his South African passport.

``At Simon Mann's request, South Africans are providing consular assistance. However, consular staff in London are in contact with the family, and we are also in close contact with the South African embassy in Harare. ''

CAPTION(S):

Simon Mann remains defiant at a maximum security prison near Harare
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 11, 2004
Words:281
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