Mark Thatcher’s Muscle Gets 34 Years

Interesting he gets called a mercenary but where the plots are ongoing and have powerful backing they get called ‘contractors’, this is very reminiscent of LeCarre’s Mission Song (although that is concerned with the Congo & a NuLabour finger was in the coup), a cloak of respectability, an elite conspiracy discreetly backed by national governments, unseating a tyrant in a country that just so happens to be a huge capital prize. But none of the wealthy originators are in jeopardy –yet-, just Mann taking the fall (a lesson in how the Thatcher family view those who do the labour, even old Etonians)-

The British mercenary Simon Mann was today sentenced to 34 years in prison for plotting to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea. The Eton-educated former SAS officer was sentenced after a trial last month during which it was claimed that a number of western governments knew about the coup plans.

The court also heard that Sir Mark Thatcher, the son of the former British prime minister, was a committed member of the group. Mann was arrested in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 2004 with dozens of mercenaries when their private plane landed.

During the trial in Malabo, a contrite Mann claimed he was “not the person I was” after four years in prison. He claimed that Spain and South Africa, with the endorsement of the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, had supported the plot.

By January 2004, two months before the attempted coup was put into action, it was, Mann said, “like an official operation. The governments of Spain and South Africa were giving the green light: ‘You’ve got to go, you’ve got to do it.'”

Senior members of the Equatorial Guinea army, police and cabinet were also implicated, Mann said, and he was given details of President Teodoro Obiang’s daily movements and his health problems.

From the Pentagon in Washington, and from the CIA and the big US oil companies, came tacit approval for regime change, according to Mann.

Thatcher “was not just an investor, he came completely on board and became a part of the management team”, Mann claimed during his trial. He said Thatcher had provided $350,000 (£178,000) in funding for the coup.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled the small west African nation of Equatorial Guinea since a 1979 coup overthrew his uncle. He pockets vast profits from offshore oil drilling.

Equatorial Guinea is Africa’s third-largest oil producer, but the bulk of its population remains very poor. Obiang’s regime is accused of being one of Africa’s worst violators of human rights.

Mann told the court that he took Thatcher to the Chelsea home of Ely Calil, the Lebanese businessman who is alleged by the government of Equatorial Guinea to have been the main financier of the plot. He named the management board as Calil, himself, a London property developer, Thatcher and a Lebanese colleague of Calil who lives in Beirut.

Mann accepted he was doing the job for money – said to be $15m – but he claimed he was sympathetic to the story he was told that oil money was not reaching the people. “I believed it was right.

In previous coverage in The Independent the timing was revealed to be crucial-

In today’s testimony, Mann said the plotters had rushed to try to carry out the coup before March 14, 2004, the date of a general election in Spain which they feared would unseat the centre-right government and deprive them of the Spanish diplomatic backing he said they had been promised.

“Everything was in … a big hurry, because we had this date of March 14, the Spanish election, which was coming closer and closer,” Mann said. Spain’s centre-right government led by Jose Maria Aznar was defeated in the 2004 election by the Socialists.

Mann said Calil had told him the coup plotters had been promised immediate diplomatic recognition by Aznar’s administration if they succeeded in replacing Obiang with Equatorial Guinea opposition figure Severo Moto. Spain had also promised to send a contingent of Civil Guards, according to Calil, Mann said.

Suffice to say a lot of powerful people, corporations and institutions are implicated here as their way of doing business is exposed. But this case has also been used to attack opponents by Obiang, has Mann been truthful, has he been coached to this testimony, his sentence another bargaining chip? Obiang is a complete scumbag (as was the guy -his Uncle- he overthrew who apparently-had 150 alleged coup plotters executed to the sound of a band playing Mary Hopkin’s tune Those Were the Days in a national stadium.) but nevertheless corporations trade with him, so one might suspect the coup was about contractual disagreement rather than a humanitarian impulse. Riggs Bank the US based home of Pinochet’s (a great friend & ally of Maggie Thatcher’s) money handled his money before the blood on it got too messy and can you guess who is chums with him?

So Obiang turned to the Bush Administration and well-connected Washington insiders for help. The United States has been cozying up to Obiang for years—the dictator met in Washington with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in April—because his country is a major oil provider, where ExxonMobil, Marathon, and Amerada Hess have billions of dollars invested.

I recently learned from a well-placed source that, earlier this year, Equatorial Guinea deposited monies at trouble-plagued Independence Federal Savings Bank. Independence opened the account only after it was approached by representatives of the State Department and told that Equatorial Guinea was a friend of the United States and that the bank’s help would be appreciated.

The State Department declined public comment for this story, but two government officials I spoke with confirmed that the Bush Administration had approached Independence on behalf of Equatorial Guinea. They said there was nothing unusual about the request and that the administration has also helped out other controversial African regimes that have had a hard time finding banking help after the Riggs scandal.

JPMorgan Chase had opened four accounts in the name of the “Permanent Mission of Equatorial Guinea.”

Cassidy & Associates, one of several big lobby shops retained by Obiang, provided help sorting out these banking issues. The lead lobbyist for Cassidy, which is being paid more than $1 million annually by Obiang, is Amos Hochstein, a former aide to retired Congressman Sam Gejdenson, a Connecticut Democrat.

A recent report by the London-based NGO Global Witness said that, thanks to oil exports, Equatorial Guinea has the second-highest per capita income in the world ($50,200)—yet it ranks near the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, with more than half of its people lacking access to potable water. Meanwhile, the report said, American oil companies still refuse to reveal how much money they pay to Obiang’s regime, and the I.M.F. has reported that his government holds more than $700 million worth of oil revenues in two offshore accounts.

So apparently his money is good enough to overcome the erm, ethical concerns of the institutions of global capital, so again the indications are the coup was a business exercise to remove a very corrupt leader and install a better country manager for the corporations feeding in Equatorial Guinea. Although Spain funds Universidad Nacional de Guinea Ecuatorial in a colonial hangover and Cuba staffs and runs a medical school at Bata the story overall is familiar- a resource rich nation where the people live in poverty as predators domestic and international squabble over the treasure. Acceptance of great inequality fuels that conflict, allows it, gives it the room to thrive.

While oil revenue has filled government coffers, most of the citizens still survive on about $1 a day. Three of four residents suffer malnutrition, but only 1 percent of the budget was spent on health care between 1997 and 2002.

Obiang, his family and members of his government live lavishly. Obiang owns two houses in Potomac, valued at $1.3 million and $2.5 million, property records show. One of his sons, Teodoro Nguema Obiang, owns a $6.9 million house in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, What Happens When Your Helicopter Breaks Down?

You call for a tow, this BBC video shows one of the Sea King rescue choppers that are based on the island (you always see them practising in the bay and rescuing punters off mountains and from ill judged nautical adventures), being towed home after it went to airlift an injured walker on Snowdonia but broke down itself. So they got an RAF Chinook (yes one that actually works) and it picks it up, like a mummy chopper taking an injured baby chopper home, aaahhhhhh. Now back to excoriating the imperial war machine, rescuing good, bombing bad, so stop it!

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Home Sec Ankles Shutterbugs Rights, Backs Police State

Rule of law? Nah, let the cops make it up as they go, Jacqui Smith, a witless authoritarian backs harassment of photographers and sod the law.

Local restrictions on photography in public places are legitimate the Home Secretary has stated in a letter to the National Union of Journalists.

While Jacqui Smith reaffirmed that there are no legal restrictions, she added that local Chief Constables were allowed to restrict or monitor photography in certain circumstances.

The letter dated 26 June, which BJP has seen a copy of, is in response to correspondence sent by the Union secretary general, Jeremy Dear, who expressed concern at police surveillance of journalists, in particular photographers.

‘First of all, may I take this opportunity to state that the Government greatly values the importance of the freedom of the press, and as such there is no legal restriction on photography in public places,’ Smith writes. ‘Also, as you will be aware, there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.’

However, the Home Secretary adds that local restrictions might be enforced. ‘Decisions may be made locally to restrict or monitor photography in reasonable circumstances. That is an operational decision for the officers involved based on the individual circumstances of each situation.

‘It is for the local Chief Constable, in the case of your letter the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force, to decide how his or her Officers and employees should best balance the rights to freedom of the press, freedom of expression and the need for public protection.’

The Home Office does not produce any guidance on photography in public places, and has not produced any specific guidance to [Forward Intelligence Team] officers, the Home Secretary says. ‘I recommend, therefore, that the questions in your letter are best put to the Commissioner.’

The NUJ is expected to meet with MP Tony McNulty – Minister of State for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing – to discuss the issue, the Home Secretary confirmed.

In May, Dear had written to the Home Office after press photographers noticed that the Metropolitan Police’s FIT was monitoring them. (ht2 Boing Boing)

Yeah, read the last line again. Please note this is professional accredited journalists. The thing is this tendency has always existed way before the waronterror ™ I was hassled for taking pics, the problem is when this tendency is legitimised and encouraged backed by the machinery of state, that is a dangerous path to be on. Another feather in NuLabour’s cap of shit.

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SOFA- Even Puppets Get Sick of the Hand

(Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the prospect on Monday of setting a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of negotiations over a new security agreement with Washington.

It was the first time the U.S.-backed Shi’ite-led government has floated the idea of a timetable for the removal of American forces from Iraq. The Bush administration has always opposed such a move, saying it would give militant groups an advantage.

In a statement, Maliki’s office said the prime minister made the comments about the security pact — which will replace a U.N. mandate for the presence of U.S. troops that expires on December 31 — to Arab ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates.

“In all cases, the basis for any agreement will be respect for the full sovereignty of Iraq,” the statement quoted Maliki as saying.

“The current trend is to reach an agreement on a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or a memorandum of understanding to put a timetable on their withdrawal.”

The statement from Maliki’s office did not specifically refer to the 150,000 American troops in Iraq, but they comprise the vast bulk of foreign forces in the country.

By referring to a memorandum of understanding, Maliki’s comments indicate this might be used as a stop-gap measure to govern the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq as opposed to the formal Status of Forces Agreement currently being negotiated.

It was unclear if a memorandum of understanding would need parliamentary approval. Iraqi officials had said they would submit any formal SOFA deal to parliament, where it might be the subject of acrimonious debate.

Maliki has long come under pressure from the movement of powerful Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Sadr’s movement quit Maliki’s government last year when the prime minister refused to do so.

Luwaa Sumaisem, head of the Sadr bloc’s political committee, welcomed Maliki’s comments on possibly setting a timetable.

“This is a step in the right direction and we are ready to support him in this objective. We hope Maliki will show seriousness about it,” Sumaisem said, without saying if the movement might then consider rejoining the government.

One also might like to ask where are the dems while Bush attempts an end run around democratic control of the occupation and er that withdrawal thingy, they could learn a thing or two about opposition from al-Sadr, that’s assuming they want to learn to be an opposition party or just the other brand name on the imperial machinery of state.