Envoy aims to ‘get French out’ of jail

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Norway’s special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kai Eide, said after his arrival there this week that his primary mission is to get 33-year-old Norwegian citizen Joshua French out of the Congolese prison where he faces a death sentence for murder. French, meanwhile, has called the latest charges against him “absurd, ridiculous and fabricated.”

Kai Eide, a former UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan, is now trying to get a Norwegian prisoner out of a Congolese jail. PHOTO: UNAMA

Kai Eide, a former UN Special Envoy to Afghanistan, is now trying to get a Norwegian prisoner out of a Congolese jail. PHOTO: UNAMA

Eide, one of Norway’s most senior and internationally known diplomats, arrived in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa late Thursday after being sent to French’s aid by the Norwegian government. French has consistently denied guilt in the murder for which he and another Norwegian, Tjostolv Moland, were sentenced to death. Moland was found dead in the cell they shared in August, and on Monday, French was indicted on charges he’d murdered Moland as well.

“French has full support from Norway,” Eide told reporters including a crew from Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday after meeting with French. Eide said they had a “long and good conversation,” and that French is holding up well under the circumstances.

“But he lives under difficult conditions and has been through some traumatic experiences recently,” Eide told NRK. “I think it’s been encouraging for him to know that the attention he’s getting from Norwegian authorities is so great.”

Eide passed on the message of full support from Norway to French during the meeting, but said he couldn’t say how he will move forward. “I must keep to myself my strategy for getting Joshua French out of prison in Congo,” Eide said.

He said he and foreign ministry officials in Oslo were evaluating various approaches. “I will meet with French every day, to get better acquainted with him,” Eide said. “And I will have more meetings with Congolese authorities at high levels.”

Norwegian crime experts took part in the autopsy of Moland, whose death initially was ruled a suicide. They disagree with Congolese authorities that there were any findings that could support an indictment against French. The indictment claims that Moland was drugged and strangled by his cellmate. The Norwegian pathologists can’t understand how such a conclusion could be reached.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund