Friday, 4 December 2009

Congo death sentence for former British soldier Joshua French upheld

Tristan McConnell in Nairobi

An appeal court in the Democratic Republic of Congo upheld a death sentence against Joshua French, a former British soldier.

Mr French, 27, who has dual British and Norwegian nationality, and his friend Tjostolv Moland, a 28-year-old former Norwegian soldier, face death by firing squad after a military tribunal in the town of Kisangani upheld their conviction for murdering their Congolese driver.

Both men deny shooting Abedi Kasongo, who died from a gunshot wound to the head on a remote road 70 miles (110km) outside Kisangani in May.

At the end of a four-month trial, which was criticised by human rights activists, a military court handed the men multiple death sentences in September after finding them guilty of murder, attempted murder, espionage, conspiracy and armed robbery. All death sentences in Congo have been commuted to life imprisonment since 2003.

Lawyers of the pair are expected to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court in the capital, Kinshasa.

Yesterday the appeal court also ordered that Norway pay the Congolese Government damages of about £290 million as the two men were found with Norwegian military identity cards and charged with spying.

The London-based human rights group Reprieve has called on Britain to demand that proceedings be moved to a civilian court and to ensure that the men are given a fair trial.

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