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22 May 2024

Did Norwegian kill prison cellmate in Congo?

By Agencies

A Norwegian national accused of killing his cellmate in a prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo went on trial on Friday in Kinshasa, his lawyer said.

Joshua French, who also holds British citizenship, is accused of murdering his friend and fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland, whose body was found at Kinshasa's Ndolo military prison on August 18.

French's lawyer Marie-Andre Mwila said his client appeared in front of the Ndolo military court in the capital on Friday.

"He is depressed. I need time so that he can get himself together a bit," he told AFP, adding that he had evidence proving that Moland had committed suicide.

Mwila said he feared if French continued to be held under current conditions "he will lose it too".

Moland, 32, and his friend French, 31,  were arrested in DR Congo in 2009 and sentenced to death in June 2010 after being convicted of killing the Congolese driver of a car they had rented.

The men, both former soldiers, denied the charge and said the driver was killed by bandits. They said they had come to DR Congo to set up a security firm.

Oslo, which had tried in vain to get the two men transferred to Norway, expressed its incomprehension at the charges against French, saying in December a joint investigation between Congolese and Norwegian forces had concluded there was a lack of evidence against him.

No executions have been carried out in DR Congo since President Joseph Kabila came to power in 2001, and death sentences have regularly been commuted to life imprisonment.

Penal facilities in the vast country date from Belgian colonial times and are decrepit and overcrowded.

Inmates are exposed to disease, dehydration and starvation. Rights groups report that prisoners can die of hunger or torture.