MALABO (Combined Sources)–Equatorial Guinea’s president has issued an amnesty to six Armenia’s convicted of taking part in a coup. The six flight crew was found guilty last year of trying to topple President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian confirmed the news reports on Monday about the release of six Armenian pilots jailed on the controversial coup charges.
The news reported from the western African country by Agence France-Presse was met with celebration at the office of Armenian aviation veteran Dmitri Atbashian.
"This news was a great joy for us," Atbashian said–adding that the Armenian pilots should abstain from dubious job offers abroad in the future.
"One day there will be work for them in Armenia," he added.
The families of the pilots do not yet know whether their loved ones have actually been freed and when they will arrive in Yerevan.
They have not seen them for over a year after the six-member aircrew of an Armenian transport plane hired by a German airfreight company were arrested in Equatorial Guinea last March and later sentenced to between 14 and 24 years’ imprisonment on charges of involvement in a reported plot to topple the local autocratic president.
Captain Ashot Karapetian’s wife–Naira Harutyunyan–has not yet decided what her first words will be to greet her husband. "My daughter asked me not to faint when I see him," she said.
Asked whether she wanted to say anything to the president of Equatorial Guinea–Harutyunyan said: "Our president wrote to him twice and there was no response. I don’t think there will be any response this time. God be with him."
A Foreign Ministry official has left for the Equatorial Guinean capital of Malabo to organize the return of Armenian pilots on the spot.
All the six Armenian pilots pleaded not guilty to the accusations throughout their trial.
Seven South Africans remain in a Malabo prison after being convicted for their role in the coup. Three more alleged mercenaries are in prison in Zimbabwe.
Obiang–who has ruled oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for 25 years–cited "humanitarian reasons" for the pardon.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry has thanked the authorities of Equatorial Guinea and personally President Teodoro Obiang Nguema for "showing humanity and understanding."
In April–the human rights group Amnesty International condemned conditions at the Black Beach prison in Malabo and said inmates could starve to death there.
South African Nick du Toit–the alleged leader of the mercenaries–remains in Black Beach–after being sentenced to 34 years in prison.