Simon Mann, the leader of the "Wonga Coup" that sought to oust Teodoro Obiang from power in Equatorial Guinea in March 2004, has been pardoned and is returning to the United Kingdom. He was in the second year of a 34-year prison term.
A statement released by the Equatoguinean government through Qorvis Communications and Cassidy and Associates, the Washington lobbying firms being paid to burnish the country's image in the United States, suggested that Mann's release is part of an ongoing campaign to reform human rights conditions in Equatorial Guinea:
Our government is committed to continuing to address the protection of human rights and today's release is an important step in this process. While Simon Mann has admitted to participating in a coup attempt, he has also genuinely repented. We have taken this extraordinary measure to prioritize his health and well being and recognize that Mann's medical care would be bestoffered in his home country. The Government of Equatorial Guinea is in the midst of an ambitious effort to reform our judicial process and humanitarian conditions. Today's release is just one of the proactive steps that we havebeen taking as part of this process and demonstrates the sincerity of our efforts.
Others have suggested that Mann's release was part of a deal he made with the regime to gain his freedom by fingering the financiers of the coup attempt, including Mark Thatcher, the son of former British PM Margaret Thatcher. Upon his release, Mann said that he would be willing to testify against Thatcher in a British court.
Mann can be seen expressing gratitude for his pardon and for the good treatment he received while in prison in Malabo in the BBC clip available here.