Price set for Congo convicts’ return

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Two young Norwegian men convicted of murder in the Democratic Republic of Congo look more likely to escape their death sentences in Congo and be returned to Norway. Officials bargaining for their release from a Congo jail, however, reportedly face a stiff price.

Tjostolv Moland and Joshua French, two former Norwegian soldiers who claim they were trying to set up business ventures in Africa, have been held in a military prison in Kisangani since their arrest in May 2009. They were apprehended after the body of their taxi driver was found, and later were charged with his murder and a variety of other offenses.

Death sentences handed down by a military court were upheld by a civilian court earlier this summer, but Norwegian officials were assured they would not be carried out. Their lawyers and Norwegian officials have been negotiating since for them to be allowed to serve their prison terms in Norway, which has no death penalty.

A delegation from Norway’s foreign ministry and justice ministry has been in Congo this week, and news bureau NTB reports that they reached agreement with local authorities to have the men extradited.

Conditions for their return, however, include demands for compensation to the family of the murdered taxi driver. Their conviction ordered them to pay the victim’s widow and others around NOK 30 million (USD 5 million). Newspaper VG reported Friday that the widow now wants French, age 28, and Moland, age 29, to pay her USD 3 million (NOK 18 million), to ensure her children’s future.

Despite the high compensation demands, the men’s Norwegian lawyers view progress in the negotiations as positive. Moland’s mother, Mathilde Moland, told newspaper Aftenposten that she won’t launch any celebrations, however, her son and his partner are on a plane bound for Norway.

Both have repeatedly denied having anything to do with their taxi driver’s murder, although photos submitted as evidence showed Moland cleaning blood off their vehicle, the men had a weapon in their possession and were carrying expired military IDs from Norway.

“Even though we’re perhaps nearer a solution, I know that things take time in Congo,” Mathilde Moland, who has visited her son in prison twice, told Aftenposten. “I won’t raise the flag until they’re on their way home.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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