[JURIST] A South African court Friday dismissed charges against eight South African mercenaries suspected of plotting a coup [BBC backgrounder] against the president of Equatorial Guinea [JURIST news archive]. The Pretoria judge found that the state had not proven its case against the men. Lawyers for the defendants argued that South African officials were behind the failed plot, but the South African government denied any involvement. The eight men were arrested in 2004 in Zimbabwe for allegedly purchasing weapons in preparation for a coup against Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema [BBC profile], who assumed power himself through a coup in 1979.
In 2004, over 60 other mercenaries involved in the plot were tried and sentenced [JURIST report] in Zimbabwe, most receiving one year jail sentences. The alleged coup leader, British national Simon Mann [BBC profile], received a four-year prison term in Zimbabwe for buying weapons without a license. In 2005, Sir Mark Thatcher [BBC profile], son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, pleaded guilty to charges related to the failed coup and was fined [JURIST reports]. BBC News has more. South Africa's Mail & Guardian has local coverage.