Congo defendants face grilling

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Two Norwegian murder defendants on trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo had a lot of explaining to do this week, after their latest court round began in Kisangani. Both have been sentenced to death after their taxi driver was found killed.

Joshua French and Tjostolv Moland, who left the Norwegian military in 2007, were still carrying military ID cards when arrested in Congo last spring. Prosecutors wanted to know why, not least since Norwegian regulations call for the ID cards to be turned in when service ends.

French had claimed it wasn’t “obligatory” to turn in military IDs, while Moland claimed he had permission to retain his ID card. A Norwegian diplomat, on hand for the two defendants’ trial, said he couldn’t confirm such permission.

Prosecutors also wanted to know why neither French nor Moland reported the murder of their driver, and instead fled the scene and later were found in the jungle. They testified that they were unable to find anyone who could understand their explanation of events in English.

The court in Kisangani has also demanded that the defendants reconstruct the murder scene and events leading up to the murder. They’ve had trouble explaining what they were doing in Congo, why they were carrying weapons and why photos were found of them on a mobile phone showing a smiling Moland as he washed blood off the seats of their vehicle.

Moland said he was “hysterical” at the time. Both men have denied killing their driver. Their defense attorneys are trying to free the men, but if sentenced again, to arrange for them to be returned to Norway, to serve their terms in a Norwegian prison.

Views and News staff