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British-Norwegian ex-soldier linked to Ugandan security firm, freed from DRC jail

FILE PHOTO of Joshua in DRC

Oslo, Norway | AFP |  A British-Norwegian dual citizen who was serving a life sentence for murder and espionage in a Congolose prison was released and returned to Norway on Wednesday, authorities said.

Joshua French, 35, was sentenced to life in prison in 2013 for the murder of his cellmate and fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland in a Kinshasa prison, although forensic evidence concluded the cause of death was suicide.

“There’s been great pressure on French and his family,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference in Oslo.

“I’m happy we’ve found a solution,” Solberg said, adding his release was a “demanding issue” for Norway and Congo.

She said French was placed under medical supervision after he arrived.

French and Moland were former soldiers who were reported to have launched a security company in Uganda, and then DRC, after leaving the Norwegian army, public broadcaster NRK said.

During the trial, The Guardian reported that French and Moland were reportedly in DRC to set up their own security company. According to The Guardian, security websites then claimed that Norwegian military ID cards, counterfeit UN hats and employee ID badges with both correct and false names were found by police at an apartment shared by the two men in Uganda.

They were linked to a Norwegian security company Special Interventions Group (SIG), but a source at the company told The Guardian,  “We were supposed to have a partnership with these guys a year ago but it didn’t happen. They decided to try it for themselves and start their own company. Unfortunately they chose our name and used our ID cards.”

A Congolese military court had initially sentenced them to death in 2009 for espionage, illegal possession of weapons, armed robbery, conspiracy and attempted murder.

Only Moland was found guilty of the murder of their driver, who they claimed was killed in an attack by gunmen in Kisangani.

NRK quoted Norwegian foreign minister Borge Brende as saying that French was transferred to Norway for “humanitarian” reasons.

French did not receive a pardon and Norway did not pay financial compensation to the Democratic Republic of Congo in exchange for his release, Brende said.

 

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