ANGOLA: Death for ‘War Dogs’

ANGOLA: Death for War Dogs

“Wanted: Employment as mercenary on full-time
or job contract basis. Preferably in South or Central America, but
anywhere in the world if you pay transportation. Contact Gearhart, Box
1457, Wheaton, Md. 20902.” That ad appeared last January in Soldier of Fortune, a magazine aimed at
military buffs and mercenaries. It got Daniel Gearhart, 34, a Viet Nam
veteran who was deeply in debt from family medical bills, a job the
next month as a mercenary in the Angolan civil war. Last week it also
got him a date with a firing squad. In the makeshift courtroom in Luanda's sandstone Chamber of Commerce
building, where they went on trial last month, the 13 British and
American mercenaries gathered after a nine-day hiatus in the
proceedings, during which the five-member revolutionary tribunal had
deliberated their fate. Optimism ran reasonably high among Angolan,
British and American defense lawyers, even though Prosecutor Manuel Rui
Monteiro had demanded death for all. In his marathon summation , Monteiro had blasted the U.S. and British governments more
than the mercenaries. He branded the U.S. as “the home of the CIA and
the mother of mercenaries” and Henry Kissinger as “the traveling
salesman of the international crime syndicate.” Trail of Rape. Chief Judge Ernesto Texeira da Silva, in declaring the
sentences, coldly described the mercenaries as “dogs of war with
bloodstained muzzles who left a trail of rape, murder and pillage
across the face of our nation.” Four men were condemned to death:
Costas Georgiou, 25, the notorious Cypriot-born Briton who, as
“Colonel Tony Callan,” had ordered 13 of his own men shot; Andrew McKenzie, 25,
Georgiou's second in command, who had helped execute the men; John
Derek Barker, 35, another Briton; and Gearhart. The other nine,
including two Americans, Gary Acker, 21, of Sacramento, Calif., and
Gustavo Grillo, 27, of Jersey City, got sentences ranging from 16 to 30
years in prison. The death sentence had been expected for Georgiou, who had accepted full
blame for killings attributed to the men serving under him. But there
was surprise at Gearhart's sentence. He was arrested only a few days
after he arrived in Angola and denied ever firing a shot. Evidently,
his ad in Soldier of Fortune was taken as proof of evil intent. British
Prune Minister James Callaghan cabled a plea for mercy for the men to
Angolan President Agostinho Neto, who alone has the power to reduce the
sentences. In Washington, the State Department termed the Gearhart sentence
“unjustified.” Two U.S. lawyers who attended the trial, however,
charged that the Ford Administration had violated the Neutrality Act by
allowing mercenaries to be recruited. The State Department denied that
it had condoned the hiring of any mercenaries.