JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Three journalists were found guilty today of violating the Official Secrets Act for reporting that South Africa's secret service was involved in the aborted attempt to over the Seychelles government.
Convicted were Rex Gibson, editor of the English-language Rand Daily Mail; Tertius Myburgh, editor of the Sunday Times; and Eugene Hugo, a reporter for South African Associated Newspapers that publishes both newspapers. Each was fined between $270 to $720 but the fines were suspended.
SAAN was also fined $1,800 on three counts of violating the act.
The journalists reported that two National Intelligence Service agents had gone to Seychelles to check on a report from a mercenary who took part in the aborted November 1981 coup.
Myburgh said it was 'surprising that at the end of the Seychelles caper the military chaps who supplied weapons to the mercenaries are still in a job and three newspapermen are in the dock.'
Mercenary leader Col. 'Mad Mike' Hoare led a party of more than 50 hired guns in an attempt to overthrow the Socialist government of President Albert Rene. The plot was foiled when customs officers discovered weapons in luggage of some of the mercenaries at the Seychelles airport.
After an airport gunbattle, the mercenaries hijacked an Air India jet back to South Africa where 42 of them stood trial for air piracy.
Hoare was convicted last year and sentenced to 10 years in jail. Another seven mercenaries picked up sentences of one to five years while the remaining 34 were given six-month jail terms.
During the trial, Hoare implicated the CIA, South Africa's cabinet and its defense and intelligence communities in the coup attempt.
The government has denied it was involved in the incident but one of the mercenaries captured during the attemp -- Martin Dolinchek -- said he was a National Intelligence Service agent on active duty.