[JURIST] An Equatorial Guinea court on Monday sentenced seven Nigerians to 12 years in prison for a 2009 attack on the presidential palace. Court president Antonio Pascual Ojo Ebobo found the Nigerians guilty of terrorism [AFP report] and said they would be fined 149 million CFA francs (USD $310,000). The Nigerians, along with 11 Equatorial Guineans, were arrested [BBC report] after a February 2009 attack on Equatorial Guinea's presidential palace in Malabo. Security forces stopped the Nigerian gunmen, alleged members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger River Delta (MEND) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], who were supposedly guided by locals on mobile phones. The court also released four additional Equatorial Guineans, all members of the opposition People's Union Party, after freeing seven [SAPA report] last month for a lack of evidence.
Equatorial Guinea has a history of coups [JURIST news archive]. Last year, former British military officer with the elite Special Air Service [BBC backgrounder], Simon Mann [BBC profile, JURIST news archive], convicted [JURIST report] in 2008 of involvement in a 2004 coup attempt [BBC backgrounder], was released from prison after being pardoned [JURIST report] by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo [official profile]. Mann was arrested in 2004 after a plane carrying him and approximately 60 mercenaries landed in Zimbabwe. Admitting his involvement in planning the coup, Mann was sentenced in 2004 in Zimbabwe for weapons charges, and was deported [JURIST reports] to Equatorial Guinea in secret in February 2007. At his trial, Mann testified that Mark Thatcher [BBC profile], the son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was involved in the plot [JURIST report] to overthrow Mbasogo. Thatcher pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in South Africa in 2005 to charges related to the failed coup. The last successful coup in Equatorial Guinea was when the current president Mbasogo toppled his uncle in 1979.