Son of Margaret Thatcher has been arrested

The arrest last week of Sir Mark Thatcher, the 51-year-old son of Margaret Thatcher, has been greeted with adolescent glee in the Left-wing press. In principle, this seems rather odd. The accounts which allegedly implicated Sir Mark in the plot to overthrow the president of Equatorial Guinea were, it is widely believed, obtained under torture. The murky suggestion that Sir Mark provided backing for the coup - a charge that he firmly denies - reportedly came from Nick du Toit, one of a small advance party of mercenaries captured in Equatorial Guinea. Since one of du Toit's group, a German national, died in custody following suspected torture, we can only imagine the horrific circumstances under which such "confessions" were extracted. The Left - especially given its frequent protests about conditions in Guantanamo Bay - is presumably opposed to confessions extracted under duress, even if the victim of such confessions is the son of a former Conservative prime minister. In any case, its smugness is badly misplaced. At worst, Sir Mark will be found guilty of supporting a coup to overthrow the wealthy, brutal dictator of an oil-rich country and install a different leader in his place. The last chap who tried something like that is currently leader of the Labour Party, informs Telegraph. According to Reuters, Two South African men accused of plotting to overthrow the government of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea say they have been stripped, beaten and threatened with electrical shocks during six months detention in Zimbabwe. Harry Carlse and Lourens Horn, two of some 85 men in Africa who have been accused of plotting a coup d'etat, said at a press conference on their arrival in Johannesburg they expected to face charges at home under South Africa's anti-mercenary laws. The case has gained growing notoriety with the arrest in South Africa of the wealthy son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the conviction of a former British special forces officer in Zimbabwe, who is accused of being coup leader. A Zimbabwe court on Friday convicted former British special forces officer Simon Mann of attempting to possess dangerous weapons, but acquitted most of the 69 other men including Carlse and Horn, held in Harare's Chikurubi maximum security prison. Britain has had little to thank Sir Mark Thatcher for over the years, apart from a degree of comic entertainment provided by his various escapades and business ventures. But the alleged connection of the former Prime Minister's son to a coup earlier this year in the tiny African state of Equatorial Guinea has, at least, focused our attention on a neglected part of the globe. In the early 1990s, the country was considered so poor and dangerous that one Spanish journalist wrote: 'Only someone suicidal would set up a business in Equatorial Guinea today, unless it was a funeral parlour.' Much has changed; the exploitation of massive oil and gas fields has made Equatorial Guinea the fastest growing economy in the world. The figures are staggering; GDP is growing at around 60 per cent, with oil accounting for nearly 90 per cent of the growth. Oil revenue increased from US$3 million in 1993 to more than $210m in 2000. It may now be as much as $700m. As is too often the case in Africa, the people of Equatorial Guinea have not benefited from this boom. In fact, poverty and infant mortality have increased. As little as 5 per cent of the oil revenue has found its way into government coffers. A far larger proportion has been pocketed by President Obiang and his family. A report from an independent watchdog, Global Witness, published at the time of the coup, concluded that $500m was unaccounted for and argued for greater transparency from oil companies, reports Guardian Unlimited.

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