‘Serious’ development in French case

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Joshua French, the young Norwegian convicted of murder and imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of Congo, now faces a new trial on charges that he also murdered his Norwegian cell mate Tjostolv Moland. News this week that the trial will start January 7 was called “a very serous development” by Foreign Minister Børge Brende.

The Norwegian government has been working for years to either get French released or transferred to a prison in Norway. Efforts increased considerably this autumn and just in the past month, after Congolese military authorities also tied French to the death of Moland in August.

Both Norwegian and Congolese police had ruled Moland’s death a suicide, so Norwegian authorities were stunned, as was French, when new charges were lodged a few weeks ago. Norway responded by sending one of its top diplomats, Kai Eide, to Congo, in the hopes of negotiating French’s extradition.

Now French’s attorney, Hans Marius Graasvold, has confirmed a report by TV2 on Monday that French will be put back on trial January 7. Efforts now are focused on getting a local attorney to defend French, who has repeatedly claimed the new charges are trumped up and “absurd.”

Børge, meanwhile, told TV2 that a new trial is “very serious” for French, not least since he’s already been sentenced to death in an earlier case that involved the murder of French’s and Moland’s driver. Despite the coroner’s report absolving French of any murder of Moland, military prosecutors have chosen to indict French with drugging his friend and business partner and then killing him.

Eide left Congo late last week after several meetings with Congolese authorities. He said then that it likely would take time to obtain French’s release. That was before the January 7 trial date was announced.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund