Prime Minister Erna Solberg, faced with criticism over the state’s efforts to bring convicted murderer Joshua French home from Congo, defended the time and effort it took on humanitarian grounds. “This was all about a person who in fact could have died in prison there,” Solberg told newspaper VG.
Norway’s foreign ministry even assigned some of its top diplomats to the repatriation effort, especially after French’s partner Tjostolv Moland was found dead in his prison cell in 2013. The two former Norwegian soldiers were trying to drum up business in Uganda and Congo but were instead accused of murdering their taxi driver. They were arrested and jailed in 2009 and were eventually sentenced to death.
“We had two Norwegians who were convicted and sentenced to death in a country that actually carries out the death penalty, and which cuts the heads off people,” Solberg told VG. “For a country like Norway, which opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle, it was important to help where we could.”
Solberg noted that her goverment would also likely have been criticized if French, whose health deteriorated under harsh prison conditions, died in Congo. He was flown home to Norway last week and is now receiving “the health care he needs,” Solberg said.
Conflicts between Norway and Congo continue over whether French should continue serving a life sentence in a Norwegian prison, but Foreign Minister Børge Brende has claimed that French is now a free man.