Profile: Simon Mann
Bespectacled, bearded and bound in chains, Simon Mann looked more like a jailed intellectual than a freelance commando leading a team of coup conspirators.

Simon Mann is a colourful character
But a Zimbabwean court has handed down a seven-year prison sentence to this grizzled Englishman for attempting to buy arms for an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.

Sixty-six other suspected mercenaries were arrested with Mann when their plane was impounded in the capital, Harare, in March. They were jailed for breaking immigration laws, but acquitted of links to the suspected coup plot.

Mr Mann's lawyers say their client and the others - mostly South Africans - were on their way to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help secure diamond mines.

They say the guns and ammunition they were trying to buy in Zimbabwe were for that purpose alone, and the coup charge is "laughable", lifted from the pages of an airport thriller.

Action man

Simon Mann's story has the hallmarks of popular fiction. Born into privilege, he was swept up by the pursuit of adventure.

Alleged mercenaries in Harare prison
The detained men's families have voiced concern at their conditions

As befits the son of an England cricket captain and the heir to a brewing fortune, he studied at Eton, the exclusive private school favoured by princes and the political elite.

Eton was followed by Sandhurst, the prestigious military academy, and from there it was a natural progression to the Scots Guards, an army regiment associated with royalty and the upper class of British society.

Mr Mann then joined the SAS, the army's special-forces unit, rising swiftly through the ranks to become a commander.

After reportedly serving in Cyprus, Germany, central America and Northern Ireland, he left the military in 1981, returning to its ranks only briefly 10 years later to work for Britain's Gulf War commander, Gen Peter de la Billiere.

Arms and advice

During the 1980s, Mr Mann sold computer security equipment and ran a business providing bodyguards to wealthy clients.

In the early 1990s, he set up Executive Outcomes, a security consultancy, with his associate Tony Buckingham.

Executive Outcomes developed a formidable reputation delivering advice - and armed guards - to protect businesses operating in conflict zones.

The company earned millions from the Angolan government by guarding oil installations against rebel attacks.

In the mid-1990s, Mr Mann entered a partnership with fellow former Scots Guardsman, Tim Spicer.

Sierra Leone rebels spent over a decade fighting the government

They established another private security firm, Sandline International, which was soon being linked to the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Its role in the conflict remains open to speculation.

The firm is believed to have delivered "logistical support", including guns, to the country while it was under a UN arms embargo.

According to Michael Gove of The Times newspaper of London, mercenaries working for Mr Mann helped defeat the rebels led by Foday Sankoh and paved the way for "democratic rule".

'Dirty work'

Those who have known Simon Mann describe him as poker-faced, mysterious and secretive.

Yet he emerged into the limelight in 2002 to play a British officer in a film about the Bloody Sunday killings in Northern Ireland.

The film's director, Paul Greengrass, spoke of him as a "humane man, but an adventurer... very English, a romantic, tremendously good company".

Mr Gove argues that Mr Mann's private security firms "have been scrupulous about operating in concert with Western policy goals while maintaining a discreet distance".

The Zimbabwean authorities have already accused Western intelligence agencies of sending the men to do their dirty work.

Friends welcome Simon Mann's release
Metropolitan Police confirm continuing investigation which could lead to some alleged conspirators in failed Equatorial Guinea coup facing trial in British courts

Simon Mann: I'll testify against Mark Thatcher in British court

Alleged conspirators in the failed coup in Equatorial Guinea today welcomed Simon Mann's release as the Metropolitan Police confirmed it is continuing an investigation which could ultimately lead to some of them facing trial in British courts with Mann as a key prosecution witness.

Sir Mark Thatcher, who was convicted in a South African court of helping fund Mann's operation and given a suspended sentence, said he was "absolutely delighted that Simon will be reunited with his family at last". Greg Wales, a London-based property dealer who was named by the attorney general of Equatorial Guinea among the alleged of co-conspirators, said he was "very happy at last that my good friends in Equatorial Guinea have treated my good friend Simon Mann, with such humanity". Wales has strenuously denied any involvement in the plot.

Scotland Yard last night would not name individuals involved in its ongoing investigation into whether "offences may have been discussed in this country" in relation to the failed coup. Mann has claimed that some of the planning meetings took place in London. Since July 2008, officers from the Metropolitan Police's counter-terrorism command have spent a total of 24 days in three separate trips to Equitorial Guinea conducting interviews with Mann and investigating the case. The London-based, Lebanese-born oil tycoon, Ely Calil, also was named by the Equatorial Guinea government as one of the plot's leaders and Mann is reported to have told detectives about coup plotting meetings which took place at Calil's London home.

It was reported this spring that Scotland Yard officers had passed files to the Crown Prosecution Service and were encouraged to seek Mann's return, to help any possible prosecution.

"We are liaising with the police and this is still a matter of investigation," a spokeswoman for the CPS said tonight.

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  • British mercenary goes on trial over EGuinea coup plot
    MALABO (AFP) - The trial of British mercenary Simon Mann on charges of plotting a 2004 coup in Equatorial Guinea opened Tuesday under heavy security with the chief prosecutor calling for a 30-year sentence.

    The prosecutor told the court that Mann was the mastermind of a group of people who "wanted to topple the legal government".

    The charge was potentially a capital one, but Attorney General Jose Olo Obono said waiving the death penalty had been a pre-condition of Mann's extradition from Zimbabwe earlier this year.

    Dressed in a grey prison outfit with blue stripes on the back, Mann looked nervous and appeared to have lost some weight as he arrived at the trial venue -- a conference center in the capital Malabo.

    There was a strong police presence and journalists were not allowed to take cameras or notebooks into court. Rubber sandals were handed out to people whose shoes were deemed suspicious.

    Other well-connected Britons such as Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, and London-based millionaire businessman Ely Calil, have been linked to the failed coup bid.

    Mann -- the heir to a brewing fortune who was educated at Eton and served in Britain's elite Special Air Services (SAS) after training at the prestigious British military academy Sandhurst -- was secretly extradited to Equatorial Guinea this year from Zimbabwe.

    The 55-year-old had been arrested in 2004 at Harare's international airport with 61 alleged accomplices when their plane touched down en route to Equatorial Guinea.
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  • Equatorial Guinea - The Mercenary Confesses
  • Drama, farce at Simon Mann coup trial
  • Mercenary Simon Mann's path from Eton to an African jail
  • Mann set to go free
    Mann set to go free Jailed mercenary Simon Mannís hopes for freedom have received a boost after judges in Zimbabwe put his extradition case on hold.

    The former SAS soldier is in ≠custody in Chikurubi prison awaiting extradition to Equatorial Guinea for his part in a failed coup three years ago.

    Friends fear that if he is handed over to one of the most brutal regimes in Africa it will be an effective death sentence. But when Mannís case came before the Zimbabwean high court last week, it was delayed by judges on the grounds that it was not urgent.

    His lawyers say he is suffering complications from a hernia but the government has so far rejected his request for an operation.

    State prosecutor Joseph Jagada said that justice minister Patrick Chinamasa had rejected pleas that there was an urgent need for Mann to undergo surgery.

    Mr Jagada said the judgment was not based on any medical examination but on the fact that Mann was said to be in urgent need of treatment six months ago but nothing adverse had yet happened to him.

    Government lawyers told the court that Mann should be extradited, adding that the crime that Equatorial Guinea intends to have him charged for is also punishable under Zimbabwean law.

    ďThe evidence tendered by Equatorial Guinea would constitute a prima facie case under the security law, POSA (Public Order and Security Act),Ē said Mr Jagada.

    Mannís lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, urged the court to set aside a lower courtís decision to extradite Mann. He called on the two judges to order Mannís immediate release, saying he had now served his ≠three-year prison term for arms possession and that his continued detention was now illegal.

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  • Simon Mann loses extradition case
  • Simon Mann, ex-Eton, ex-SAS. Now the nightmare of Black Beach prison
  • Simon Mann Case Information

  • Simon Mann loses extradition case

    The Old Etonian faces
    a 30-year sentence if
    he is convicted in
    Equatorial Guinea, says hugh russell
    In an almost empty courtroom, with only a few journalists and court officials present, Harare magistrate Omega Mugumbate today sealed the fate of Simon Mann, ordering him to be extradited to Equatorial Guinea.

    The magistrate told the court: "Extradition is not prohibited. The respondent has averred that he will not face a fair trial if extradited to Equatorial Guinea but the applicants (Equatorial Guinea) have made arrangements to the contrary."

    Mann's lawyers had argued that their client would face torture. But Mugumbate said: "The submission that he'll be tortured is... say-so."

    Mann was not in court. Observers believe he is too ill. Ironically he finished his Zimbabwe jail sentence today, and was released - only to be immediately re-arrested in the light of the extradition ruling.

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  • Simon Mann, ex-Eton, ex-SAS. Now the nightmare of Black Beach prison
  • Simon Mann Case Information
  • True hell on earth: Simon Mann faces imprisonment in the cruellest jail on the planet

    Torture and starvation routine. Disease and death commonplace. And if you escape all that, there's always cannibalism to contend with. The fate that awaits British mercenary Simon Mann in the cruellest jail on the planet.

    Malaria and yellow fever are endemic, there is an infestation of rats and the sadistic guards think nothing of torture and keeping inmates starved of food for days on end.

    Black Beach prison in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (off the west coast of Africa), is surely worse than the notorious Devil's Island, home to the fictional Papillon.

    Harsh: Simon Mann (left) faces imprisonment in Black Beach, Equatorial Guinea

    There are no human rights, no proper access for lawyers, no regular family visits, no medical supervision; in fact, almost no contact whatever with the outside world from behind the barbed wire and the guard towers.

    The jail, situated on the tropical volcanic island of Bioko, is a black hole into which prisoners disappear - often in mysterious circumstances - or die of chronic disease after being beaten.

    Small wonder that the 53-year-old British former SAS officer and alleged mercenary Simon Mann - who last week lost his battle to avoid extradition from Zimbabwe to Equatorial Guinea, where he is accused of organising a "coup" to overthrow the oil-rich country's despotic government - is convinced he will die in the isolated prison.

    Black Beach, Equatorial Guinea:There are no human rights, no proper access for lawyers, no regular family visits and no medical supervision

    Mann's lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, said after the extradition hearing: "I'm not going to allow Simon to go to Equatorial Guinea because I know for sure he'll be killed."

    He has every right to be concerned. According to sources inside Equatorial Guinea, the President has promised his henchmen that once Mann, a close friend of Sir Mark Thatcher, is extradited to Black Beach, he will be paraded in triumph to his palace in the old port of Malabo to be sodomised personally by the President before being skinned alive.

    Such taunts are typical of a man who reportedly thinks nothing of torturing and executing his political opponents once they have reached the jail.

    One political opponent, Pedro Motu Mamiaga, is said to have had his liver removed - which the President then ate.

    Like Idi Amin of Uganda, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema likes to suggest he is a cannibal, to maintain his power and mystique.

    Friends of Mann (the Old Etonian son of a Fifties England cricket captain) fear he will be tortured, not just to extract information about the alleged coup but to satisfy the President's demands.

    "The catalogue of murder and torture in his prisons, police stations and elsewhere is toecurling," explains one expert on the country.

    "Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch frequently report on extra-judicial executions, torture and rape by police and soldiers."

    Two years ago, a British judge described the President as "a despot who rules without regard to the rule of law or democratic institutions such as free elections, and through a regime which uses torture to procure confessions".

    Mann, whose wife is living in their Hampshire home, would not be the first to suffer in Black Beach, where prisoners have their jaws broken as a matter of course, or their forearms snapped.

    One French economist bent on exposing corruption in the country had the veins in his neck sliced open.

    Indeed, the fate of the foreign prisoners has been of rapidly increasing concern since the death of a German who was a member of Mann's alleged plot to overthrow the President.

    Gerhard Eugen Nershz died in 2005 from what the authorities officially described as "cerebral malaria with complications".

    He was taken to hospital just hours before his death, where witnesses said he had "severe injuries" to both his hands and feet apparently caused by torture.

    The United Nations, the American State Department and Amnesty have all drawn attention to the "disappearance" of three members of the Equatorial Guinea armed forces and a civilian, also held in Black Beach.

    All four were later found guilty, in their absence, of planning a coup.

    The list of horror stories surrounding the jail goes on.

    In September 2002, inmate Juan Asumu Sima died shortly after his trial for another coup attempt.

    During the trial - in which he was convicted - he needed help to stand, and reportedly had scars on

    his legs and arms, consistent with accounts that he was severely tortured in detention. He repeatedly requested medical assistance, but was refused.

    Some months later, Felipe Ondo Obiang, head of one of the opposition parties to the President and accused of being involved in another coup attempt, also vanished. (He had already been sentenced to 20 years in Black Beach.)

    There was speculation that he had been abducted, and he has not been seen since.

    At least 13 other co-accuseds remain in Black Beach - most, if not all, were severely tortured at the time of their arrest, according to Amnesty, which added that they were refused medical attention, against UN rules.

    Simon Mann, who is reported to be in poor health and in need of a hip replacement and hernia surgery, is unlikely to receive any medical attention should he be sent to Black Beach.

    Yet medical treatment would be just one of his problems. Prisoners at Black Beach face another privation - lack of food.

    Their daily ration of one cup of rice a day was reduced to one or two bread rolls a day three years ago, but even that has been cut recently.

    Prisoners can go for six days at a time without receiving food.

    Another of Mann's colleagues in the alleged coup conspiracy was former South African Army officer Nick du Toit.

    He was allegedly part of an "advance party", waiting for Mann and about 70 other mercenaries to arrive.

    However, the plotters were arrested in Harare after a large consignment of weapons was seized at the city's airport and Zimbabwean prosecutors accused them of planning a coup in Equatorial Guinea.

    As part of a plea bargain in South Africa, where he was accused of being part of the plot, Sir Mark Thatcher admitted leasing a helicopter for Mann, knowing it was to be used in the coup bid.

    Du Toit was jailed for 34 years in 2005 after what Amnesty alleges was a "grotesquely unfair" trial.

    At first, he admitted taking part in the coup attempt, but withdrew his statement, claiming it was given under torture.

    He has managed to smuggle letters out of Black Beach to his wife, Belinda, who says: "He's so thin that he looks like a grain of rice."

    Amnesty says that du Toit and ten other foreigners sentenced with him are at imminent risk of starvation.

    All foreign prisoners are kept inside their cell for 24 hours a day, with their hands and legs shackled at all times.

    The prison authorities block all contact with their lawyers, consular officials or members of their families.

    Belinda said: "I can't believe there are places that operate this way."

    Sometimes there is no access to water. Even when it is available, it is dirty and Belinda is worried about cholera.

    Her husband is reportedly in poor health following a series of beatings and the persistent lack of food.

    "Many prisoners are extremely weak because of torture or ill-treatment and chronic illness," says Kolawole Olaniyan, director of Amnesty's Africa programme.

    "Unless immediate action is taken, many of those detained there will die.

    "It is a scandalous failure by the authorities to fulfil their most basic responsibilities under international law."

    Another Amnesty campaign director, Stephen Bowen, similarly says: "Such near starvation, lack of medical attention and appalling prison conditions are nothing short of a slow, lingering death sentence."

    But what is it about Equatorial Guinea that inspires these brutal, mindless atrocities?

    The answer can be traced to the traditions of the ruling Nguema family.

    The country became a republic in 1968 and the first elected president, Macias Nguema (the current ruler's uncle), took control.

    Within a few months, he killed an opponent by breaking his legs and letting him die of malnutrition.

    He then murdered ten members of his Cabinet and, according to Amnesty, massacred "tens of thousands of his own people".

    The country soon got the nickname 'the Dachau of Africa' and more than 100,000 of its inhabitants fled.

    Nguema next banned medicines - which led to the widespread return of tropical diseases, including yellow fever, malaria, leprosy, diphtheria, typhus and cholera.

    He also took Western hostages, expelled missionaries, closed schools, banned the word 'intellectual' and declared himself President for life.

    But in 1979, his rule was overturned by his nephew, then in charge of the National Guard and commandant of Black Beach.

    Marcias Nguema was shot by Obiang's supporters shortly after he tried to flee with the country's entire foreign currency reserves - £100 million -stuffed into suitcases.

    But the country's plight did not improve. Now acknowledged as one of West Africa's most feared despots, legend has it that President Obiang Nguema eats the testicles of his defeated enemies so that he can absorb their life force.

    However, financially, he was far luckier than his uncle.

    In the early 1990s, Equatorial Guinea was transformed by the discovery of two vast oil fields near Bioko Island.

    The country now produces more oil per head of population than Saudi Arabia.

    Yet the fortune doesn't reach the population at large.

    Four years ago, the International Monetary Fund found that the government had received £65 million in oil royalties, but accounted for only £17million.

    Observers call it "one of the most corrupt, oppressive and anti-democratic states in the world".

    With water shortages in all major cities, little running water or electricity, the population is malnourished, forced to live on monkey meat, yams and bananas, and has an average life expectancy of just 43.

    The country has the smallest proportion of GDP spent on health and education of all Africa.

    Meanwhile, Forbes magazine estimates the President's personal wealth at £300 million, and in 2004 he bought his sixth private plane - a Boeing 737 - for nearly £30 million.

    Nowhere are conditions harsher than in Black Beach prison.

    As one senior government official said recently: "It is doubtful any Western prisoner could survive for more than three years because of the health problems in our jails."

    Simon Mann has every right to fear for his life should he find himself incarcerated there.

    Mann seeks to prevent extradition

    Mann (second right) was due for release in May
    Simon Mann, the British leader of a group of alleged mercenaries, has asked the Zimbabwe High Court to stop his extradition to Equatorial Guinea.

    Mann's lawyers said he would not have a fair trial in Equatorial Guinea and would face torture there.

    He was arrested in 2004 when his plane landed in Zimbabwe. He was accused of trying to fetch arms for a coup in Equatorial Guinea, and jailed.

    The High Court hearing on Thursday ended without a ruling.

    Mann, a former SAS officer, was due for early release in May for good behaviour.


    Also in May, a Zimbabwean magistrate's court agreed to a request by Equatorial Guinea that Mann be extradited to stand trial there.

    This prompted Mann's appeal to the High Court. He is to remain in custody until the court rules on his appeal.

    More than 60 men arrested with him - most of them South African citizens of Angolan origin - were released in 2005 after serving a year's sentence in Zimbabwe.

    Sir Mark Thatcher, son of former UK Prime Minister now Baroness Thatcher, was fined and received a suspended sentence in South Africa for his involvement in the affair.

    The relatives of other plot suspects who are being held in Equatorial Guinea have complained of abuse and unfair treatment.

    One suspect, a German, died in prison after what Amnesty International said was torture.

    Equatorial Guinea, a former Spanish colony, has been ruled by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema since he seized power from his uncle in a coup in 1979.

    Simon Mann, ex-Eton, ex-SAS. Now the nightmare of Black Beach prison
    Equatorial Guinea pursues Briton over coup attempt - Zimbabwe magistrate orders extradition

    David Pallister and Andrew Meldrum in South Africa
    Thursday May 10, 2007 - The Guardian

    Former SAS officer Simon Mann. Photograph: AP
    After three years spent languishing in a Zimbabwean prison, the British mercenary Simon Mann was hoping to win his freedom this week, his sentence cut short for good behaviour.

    Yesterday, however, the Old Etonian's predicament took a substantial turn for the worse.

    A magistrate in Harare ruled that he should be extradited to Equatorial Guinea, the west African nation that was the focus of the alleged coup plotted by Mann and his team of armed conspirators.

    The court's decision, which came despite protests from his lawyer that he could face torture and a rigged trial, was viewed by observers as an "oil for Mann" deal. President Robert Mugabe announced in March that Zimbabwe was receiving shipments of oil from the Equatorial Guinea president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo. Since the failed coup the two tyrants have become best friends.

    Mann, 54, cuts an exotic figure. The former British special forces officer is the son of an England cricket captain and is a close friend of Sir Mark Thatcher, who was also convicted in South Africa of taking part in the plot.

    Mann will appeal against the extradition ruling. His lawyers are likely to cite the appalling conditions awaiting him at the grim fortress of Black Beach prison.

    Amnesty International and the US state department both have the same description of the jail. "Conditions at Black Beach prison in the capital, Malabo, were life threatening," they said in reports last year.

    Inmates are forced to wear ankle shackles 24 hours a day. Many are at risk of starvation if they do not have families to provide for them and medical treatment is either spasmodic or non-existent. Torture - burning and beating the soles of the feet - is reportedly routine.

    "Since at least early January 2007 the prison authorities have not provided medical treatment to prisoners," Amnesty reported. "Medical personnel have not been allowed to visit the prison nor have the prisoners been taken for treatment to hospital or to see a doctor outside the prison. In addition, the prison authorities do not provide medicines to those who need them."

    One of the alleged plotters, the German national Gerhard Eugen Nershz, died a few days after being taken to Black Beach. The authorities said he had contracted cerebral malaria. He was taken to hospital from the prison some hours before his death and witnesses reported that he appeared to have severe injuries caused by torture on his hands and feet. An opposition activist, Weja Chicampo, who was arrested at the same time, said later he had been so badly beaten he could not eat properly; he was left in handcuffs without water so he had to drink his own urine.

    Mann was convicted in September 2004 of attempting to buy weapons without a licence after he landed in Harare with a group of 69, mainly South African, mercenaries. More than two dozen associates were arrested at the same time in Malabo.

    Mann claimed that he was en route to guard a mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo but the men arrested with him served less than one year in jail after pleading guilty to charges of violating Zimbabwe's immigration and civil aviation laws.

    In yesterday's hearing at Chikurubi maximum security prison where Mann had been held, magistrate Omega Mugumbate rejected arguments by his lawyer, Jonathan Samkange, that he would not receive a fair trial in Equatorial Guinea.

    "The extradition application is not prohibited in terms of the law," said Ms Mugumbate. "[The] respondent did not prove charges of torture while [the] applicant provided a prima facie case against respondent. It is hereby ordered that respondent be extradited to Equatorial Guinea," she concluded.

    During the extradition hearing Mann said that he should not go to Equatorial Guinea because he believes the authorities there will torture and kill him. Mr Samkange argued that international law bars the extradition of people indicted in political trials or facing possible torture.

    "It would be a very sad day if Zimbabwe were to extradite a man against all international conventions," he said in his closing arguments last week.

    Equatorial Guinea's attorney general, Jose Ole Obono, told the hearing that although his government believed Mann was the "intellectual head" of the alleged plot, he would get justice. Zimbabwean state lawyers, assisting the Equatorial Guinean officials, made several assurances that Mann would be treated fairly and that his trial would be heard by a judge appointed by the African Union. The Zimbabweans also vowed that Equatorial Guinea would not impose the death sentence if Mann is found guilty.

    "Mann's fate was decided by Mugabe's need for oil, not by the legal arguments," a legal expert in Harare told the Guardian yesterday. "As soon as we started getting shipments of oil from Equatorial Guinea, Mann's extradition was assured."

    If Mann is taken to Malabo he will join the five South African plotters who remain in Black Beach, including his main associate, the former South African soldier Nick du Toit. They are serving up to 34 years and have complained of poor food, constant shackling, lack of medical help and, in the first weeks, repeated beatings.

    The plotters

    Of the more than 80 men convicted of the coup plot only six remain in prison: Simon Mann in Zimbabwe and five South Africans in Equatorial Guinea. All the other 69 mercenaries arrested with Mann at Harare international airport served less than one year in jail after pleading guilty to charges of violating Zimbabwe's immigration and civil aviation laws.

    In Equatorial Guinea, six Armenian aircrew, allegedly part of the conspiracy, were given a presidential pardon. Five others, including Mann's main co-conspirator, Nick du Toit, are serving up to 34 years in the notorious Black Beach prison.

    In 2005, Sir Mark Thatcher pleaded guilty in South Africa to helping to finance the sale of a helicopter to be used in the attack. In a plea bargain he was fined and given a four-year suspended sentence. But most of the other figures behind the coup attempt escaped, including the exiled politician Severo Moto. Lord Archer has not confirmed if he was the JH Archer who donated $135,000 to Mann's account.

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