VICTORIA, Seychelles -- Seven foreign mercenaries go on trial for their lives this week for an almost comic 'bargain-basement' attempt to overthrow Socialist President Albert Rene.
The 'South African seven,' as they are called on the rocky islands in the Indian Ocean, face charges of high treason -- punishable by death -- for a plot to oust the government last Nov. 25 that misfired from the start.
The cast for the trial -- set to begin Wednesday in Victoria, some 1,300 miles off the coast of Kenya -- includes ex-Rhodesian soldiers, rugby players, a professional spy and a secretary.
The government claims Martin Dolinchek, Robert Sims, Susan Ingles and Jerry Puren of South Africa, Aubrey Brookes and Roger England of Zimbabwe and Briton Bernard Carey were trying to restore former President James Mancham, who was overthrown by Rene in a bloodless coup in 1979.
The group was reportedly part of a band led by Col. 'Mad Mike' Hoare, the aging leader of the famed 'Wild Geese' batallion in the Congo wars of the 1960s.
Hoare is now on trial in South Africa with 42 other mercenaries in the hijacking of an Air India jetliner to South Africa following the failed coup. It appears to have been doomed from the start.
Hoare has testified in South Africa that the CIA and the South African government actively supported the coup attempt. But the plot was termed 'bargain-basement' by some mercenaries who refused to get involved.
Some mercenaries who would not join said the participants were to get as little as $10,000 if it succeeded. If it failed, they were to take home only $1,000.
The coup never got off the ground because mercenary Johan Fritz was found with an automatic rifle in his suitcase at the airport. Fritz died in an ensuing gunbattle along with one Seychellois soldier.
To cut costs, the mercenaries had carried South African-supplied AK-47 rifles on board the Air Swaziland jetliner that brought them to the Seychelles. Bringing in arms by boat, which would have been almost foolproof, was deemed too expensive by Hoare.
Six of the seven captured mercenaries on the Seychelles were in a reconnaissance mission to convince dissident army soldiers to aid the Mancham-backed coup attempt.
The weapons and documents carried by the mercenaries tied them to the main group that tried to enter disguised as a South African beer drinking club, the Ancient Order of the Froth Blowers. They hijacked the Air India jetliner back to South Africa.