ZIMBABWE’S top court on Wednesday dashed expectations of a quick release for 62 men jailed last year over a coup plot in oil-rich Equatorial Guinea, approving a government bid to appeal their early release.
“The Supreme Court has granted the attorney general’s application for leave to appeal the release of my clients,” Julia Woods, the men’s advocate, told Reuters.
Zimbabwe’s high court this month reduced the men’s sentence following an appeal, a surprise move that qualified them for an early release. The government quickly indicated it would appeal, although it needed court approval to do so.
The men, travelling on South African passports, were arrested in March 2004. They were found guilty on weapons and immigration charges related to the plot and sentenced in August to 12 months in prison.
Under Zimbabwe’s laws, prisoners may have their sentences cut by one-third on condition of good behaviour, but the country’s attorney general argues this only applies to locals.
The prisoners will now have to wait until the court hears the appeal and a judgement is made, which could take weeks.
Zimbabwe has already released two of the convicted mercenaries for health reasons.
Equatorial Guinea sentenced 11 foreigners in November to between 14 and 34 years for their role in the plot, and two of its citizens to 16 months in jail.
In South Africa Mark Thatcher, the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, pleaded guilty in January to a role in the foiled plot under a deal with prosecutors to avoid jail under South Africa’s anti-mercenary laws. — Reuter.