One of the mercenaries captured after a coup attempt last month was a senior South African police officer whose superiors knew he was involved in the plot, President France Albert Rene said yesterday.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Rene said the officer was sent to the Seychelles, before the main force of mercenaries flew here on Nov. 25, to determine if the coup "could be done without implicating South Africa."

Maj. James Michel, military chief of staff for the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean 1,000 miles off the African coast, named the prisoner as Martin Dolinchek of Durban, South Africa. He said Dolinchek carried a South African passport and international driver's license under another name.

Asked if Dolinchek's involvement was known to his superiors, Rene said, "It was, yes. He admits it. But he was told to make sure that the knowledge was not revealed." South Africa has said it was not involved in the coup attempt and had no advance knowledge of it.

Rene told a mass rally that the five white mercenaries taken prisoner would soon be tried by a people's court. Senior officials said the government was working on legislation to provide for capital punishment for crimes related to mercenary operations.