Congo convict pins hopes on diplomacy

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Joshua French has decided not to appeal his latest life sentence for murder in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His defense lawyer says French instead hopes that diplomacy will ultimately result in his transfer to a Norwegian prison.

French was convicted of murdering his Norwegian friend and fellow convict Tjostolv Moland in the cell they shared at a military prison in Kinshasa. Both men had already been convicted of the murder of their driver in 2009, and sentenced to both death and/or life in prison on various charges.

Moland’s death was initially ruled a suicide, but Congolese prosecutors later charged French and convicted him earlier this month. Now French has formally accepted his new life sentence, with his lawyer Han Marius Graasvold explaining that he has little faith in an appeals trial and thinks his chances for eventually leaving Congo someday are better through diplomacy. No negotiations over French’s future were likely to be conducted during the course of another trial, Graasvold said.

Graasvold also told newspaper Aftenposten that French simply can’t face going through another trial like the one just ended. His health has deteriorated and he’s back to sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a hallway in the overcrowded Congolese prison. Graasvold claimed prison management won’t take responsibility for French’s health or provide him with medical help.

French has received extraordinary help from the Norwegian government, though, with the foreign ministry sending one of its top diplomats, Kai Eide, to Congo to negotiate for French’s transfer. Negotiations are now expected to resume.

newsinenglish.no staff