French collapses as Congo case closes

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Joshua French, the Norwegian man accused of murdering his cell mate in Congo last August, broke down from exhaustion as his trial wrapped up in Kinshasa on Tuesday afternoon. His lawyer was happy with how the case played out, saying it revealed the investigation into Tjostolv Moland’s death was “incompetent” and “sloppy”.

Judge Serge Kabondo granted a visibly sick and exhausted French permission to sit during the last day, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). French’s condition worsened throughout the afternoon, and at one point he and his mother, Kari Hilde French had to leave the courtroom after he vomited.

French’s defense counsel, Marie Andre Mwila held the floor on Tuesday. He stressed that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and if the court was in doubt it must acquit French. “Altogether the evidence shows that Moland died in a way that was not criminal,” Mwila said, showing the Congolese authorities’ own statement released after Moland’s death which ruled out foul play. “The investigation showed signs which go against the notion that Moland was killed.”

Earlier in the case, Norwegian expert witnesses said there were no signs of violence in the cell Moland and French shared, and injuries on Moland’s body could not have been inflicted by others. Congolese experts disagreed. The prosecutor sought a second life sentence for French. He and Moland were originally imprisoned after they were convicted of killing their driver in 2009, a charge both men denied. French was charged with Moland’s murder in December, after Congolese authorities initially deemed the death a suicide.

The court adjourned until February 11, but French’s Norwegian lawyer Hans Marius Graasvold told NRK they already plan to appeal if French is found guilty.

newsinenglish.no staff