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Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, branded a "dirty player"

Last updated on 00:38 - by El NACHO - Tags :

"Spain is heavily mentioned by Simon Mann. It was where the plot started and that country has very good intelligence service," he said, adding that a special relationship still existed between the west African nation and its former colonial rulers. "And yet not a hint was given from Spain and we wonder why.
Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, branded a "dirty player" who hoped to reap huge benefits from the plot and claimed that Ely Calil, the London-based businessman who allegedly financed the project, was planning to "silence" Mann. Mann, a 55-year-old former SAS soldier, faces the death penalty if convicted of leading attempted coup in 2004. Speaking ahead of the trial which opens today in the capital Malabo, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema said he "strongly suspected" that authorities in Britain, Spain and America were fully aware that a coup attempt was being staged and did nothing to stop it or warn him of the danger. He said he found it very hard to believe that three countries which had such powerful intelligence services could have failed to have known about the plot.
"Simon Mann is British and given his reputation as a mercenary his movements would have been monitored all the time by British intelligence," the leader of the oil-rich nation said. "And yet they did nothing."
He said the same was true of Spain where Severo Moto, the opposition leader who was to be installed as the new president following the coup, now lives in exile.
"The US has the greatest involvement in Equatorial Guinea with investments worth $30 billion (£15 billion) that they have a right to protect. For the US to not to have taken notice or claim ignorance of the movements of the plotters is doubtful."
But he admitted that there was little he could do to prove it, saying: "We don't have firm evidence that Western powers were involved, just strong suspicions."
At a press conference in his presidential office, the former governors' house from Spanish colonial times, the president, who wore a diamond-encrusted gold watch, claimed he was aware of Sir Mark Thatcher's role in the alleged plot. "He is known as a dirty player. He spent his life getting involved in all sorts of dubious deals and he jumped quickly into this boat expecting to reap huge financial benefits," the 66-year-old leader said of the former British Prime Minister's son. Equatorial Guinea has said it will issue an international warrant for his arrest and others named by Mann as co-conspirators.
A friend of Sir Mark last night said: "Sir Mark has made it clear he was not involved in the alleged attempted coup and has no further comment to make. "He doesn't know Sir Mark and Sir Mark doesn't know him and I suggest he keeps his opinions to himself." Security on the island had been heightened ahead of the trial amid fears that an assassination attempt would be made on the nation's most famous defendant. "We have precise information about this and have taken measures to ensure his safety," said the president. "This Ely Calil is a man with a lot of money and a lot to lose. He will try his best to kill Simon Mann or kidnap him or any other means of silencing him because he doesn't want Mann to continue revealing information that could be used against him."
Mr Calil, who has denied knowledge of the plot, has previously accused the president of bringing a "malicious prosecution" against him.
Jose Pablo Nvo, the lawyer hired last week to defend Mann, yesterday said his client seemed in good spirits but was understandably nervous about the trial.
"He feels as anyone would feel ahead of such an event," Mr Nvo said. "He is a human being after all and therefore feels nervous. But he seems relaxed and we had a glass of wine together." The president last night assured reporters the trial would meet international standards. "I do believe the trial of Simon Mann will qualify as just and transparent on all levels set by international standards," the president said.
It was hoped that Mann would give evidence from a purpose built bullet proof glass box in the courtroom, the location of which is a closely guarded secret, but it has not been constructed in time for the opening of proceedings this morning.
Instead, authorities have introduced a raft of security measures designed to protect Mann. Those attending court, including journalists, international observers and lawyers, will be forced to leave their shoes outside and don flip flops . Long sleeve shirts, wristwatches and pens have also been banned.
The president denied the measures were extreme. "We are very much aware of sophisticated gadgetry and weaponry that can be used to inflict harm," he said.
If Mann is convicted and avoids the death sentence, it is possible that he may be able to serve at least some of his sentence in a UK prison.
The president said he would not rule out sanctioning such a move if the judges felt he had cooperated fully with authorities. "If they think that the level of cooperation has been good enough there might be some clemency," he said. "It could be that we negotiate with the British government."

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