Special envoy met Congo President

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Norwegian special envoy Kai Eide has met with a host of dignitaries, including the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in a bid to bring convicted murderer Joshua French home to Norway. French is due to go on trial again on Tuesday for the death of his friend and cellmate, fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland.

Joshua French, in the cell he shared with fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland in Kisangani, before the two were transferred to another prison. After Moland's death in August, French was moved to another cell that he shares with nine other prisoners. PHOTO: Christian Thomassen/NTB Scanpix

Joshua French, in the cell he shared with fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland in Kisangani, before the two were transferred to another prison in Kinshasa. Moland was found dead in the cell last August, and after initially ruling it a suicide Congolese prosecutors indicted French for murder. PHOTO: Christian Thomassen/NTB Scanpix

Moland was found dead in his cell at a Kinshasa prison on August 18 last year. Initially the death was deemed a suicide. In early December French was indicted for murdering Moland to the disbelief of French and the Norwegian government, which had been trying to extradite French and Moland since their imprisonment in 2009. The two former soldiers were setting up a security business in Congo and Uganda when their driver was found dead, and the pair were convicted of his murder.

“I had a meeting with President Joseph Kabila and Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda together with the British ambassador,” Eide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). French has a Norwegian mother and a British father. “We delivered a shared letter from the British Prime Minister David Cameron and Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg. That reflects in itself increasingly close cooperation between London and Oslo in this case.”

Eide said it was the first time the envoy party had met with Kabila, which was an important development in the case. “It gave us an opportunity to build the case from 2009 onwards, and the latest development we now face. Kabila noted what we said. Now, it’s not so normal that a head of state reacts immediately right after having received such a letter.” Eide also submitted a letter from Moland’s parents, who don’t believe French killed their son and want the case dropped.

Cautiously optimistic
French’s mother and his lawyer were upbeat after the meeting. “Face to face meetings like this are important in Africa,” said Kari Hilde French. “It means someone’s working to get Joshua free. I hope this will be a further step down the road.”

Lawyer Hans Marius Graasvold said the meeting was between key players, but he’s not expecting it to have a specific outcome. “It’s positive that there has been a meeting and it has probably been essential for progressing in the work.”

Witnesses in the case will include investigating officers from Norway’s organized and serious crime unit Kripos, and the Norwegian doctor who performed Moland’s autopsy. Kripos and Congolese forensic investigators both investigated Moland’s death, and each party independently concluded there was no criminal basis.

Congolese military prosecutors then alleged sedatives were found in Moland’s blood and indicted French, who faces a death sentence if found guilty. Kripos denied they’d found any traces of drugs.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate