Congo verdict postponed yet again

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Norwegian murder defendant Joshua French has to wait another few days to learn whether a military court in the Democratic Republic of Congo will convict him of murdering his Norwegian business partner and cell mate Tjostolv Moland. At issue is the state of French’s health, and whether he’s well enough to face the verdict.

Judge Serge Kabondo stated that the court has enough information now to make a ruling. It remained unsure on Monday, though, whether French is strong enough to understand it.

French’s mother and defense lawyer have kept trying to transfer French from the prison in Kinshasa to a local hospital, arguing that he is exhausted after nearly five years of imprisonment and lengthy court proceedings in Congo. Prosecutors argued that allowed French to go to hospital would be tantamount to freeing him, and that the danger of him escaping were high.

French and Moland were initially arrested, charged and convicted for the murder of their driver while on an alleged business trip in Congo in 2009. Both young men, former soldiers in the Norwegian Army, were sentenced to death.

Moland was found dead in cell last autumn. Doctors ruled his death a suicide, while Congolese prosecutors charge French with killing him. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry has invested heavily in efforts to get French pardoned or transferred to a Norwegian prison. Veteran diplomat Kai Eide, a former UN Special Envoy, was in the courtroom in Kinshasa on Monday, trying to negotiate his transfer or at least better conditions of incarceration.

newsinenglish.no staff