Sixty-two accused mercenaries held in a top security prison in Zimbabwe for more than one year because of their alleged involvement in a thwarted coup attempt in Equatorial Guinea were released and deported to South Africa yesterday, their lawyer said.
Jonathan Samkange said prison authorities had confirmed the release of the men but he had not seen them before they left under heavy police escort.
The men arrived at the South African border just after 10am after an overnight bus journey from Harare, South Africa's ambassador to Zimbabwe, Jerry Ndou told the South African Press Association. South African radio reported that only eight of the men apparently had valid passports and that the rest were likely to be detained by immigration officials and transported to an undisclosed location.
The men, who all have South African nationality although some are of Angolan or Namibian origin, were arrested in March last year when their aging chartered plane landed in Harare on the way to oil-rich Equatorial Guinea. Zimbabwean authorities charged them with plotting to overthrow the government.
During a lengthy trial last year, they denied being part of a coup plot and said they were bound for Congo to work security at a diamond mine. The Zimbabwean court convicted them of relatively minor immigration charges after prosecutors failed to prove more serious weapons and coup conspiracy charges.
The men completed a one-year prison sentence on Tuesday and were formally released Thursday, but were forced to stay in the Chikurubi prison compound because of bureaucratic bungling and apparent delaying tactics by the authorities.
The men's lawyers said Zimbabwean officials gave a series of excuses -- ranging from security concerns during the journey to South Africa to the need to buy film for identity pictures -- to delay their release.
Samkange said South African authorities were also to blame. He said some of the men had not been given valid passports after their own documents had expired while in jail.
"Their [the South African embassy] argument was that they had not been approached to provide passports," Samkange said on Saturday.
South African authorities had refused to intervene despite appeals from lawyers and relatives.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete