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Eight face mercenary charges in South Africa

[JURIST] Eight men appeared in a South African court Friday to face charges of breaking the country's anti-mercenary laws, enforced under the Foreign Military Assistance Act [text]. The South African men were freed in May, along with 53 other suspected mercenaries, from a Zimbabwe jail where they served time [JURIST report] for participating in an alleged coup attempt [BBC backgrounder] against Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema [Wikipedia profile]. According to their defense lawyer, the men knew nothing of the coup and "they genuinely believed that they had been recruited to do security work in [The Democratic Republic of the] Congo." The case has now been postponed and will resume in July. Sir Mark Thatcher [BBC profile], son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher [official website], was found to be in violation of the anti-mercenary law [JURIST report] earlier this year as part of the same attempted coup. Upon agreeing to help investigators, Thatcher's jail sentence was suspended and he was fined [JURIST report]. BBC News has more. South Africa's Independent Online has local coverage.

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