Norway’s Foreign Minister denounces death sentences

Joshua French (left) and Tjostolv Moland have been jailed in Congo since May. Photo: twitpic.comPhoto:

Joshua French (left), from Aust-Agder and Tjostolv Moland from Vestfold have been jailed in Congo since May. Photo:

A military court in Congo has sentenced two Norwegians to death, and ordered them and the Norwegian government to pay $60 million in damages.

Joshua French (27) and Tjostolv Moland (28) had been charged with murder, espionage and arms smuggling after their driver was found dead in May this year with a gunshot wound to his head near the city of Kisangani, in east Congo. French and Moland have denied all charges. When the sentence was announced the public present applauded, reports Aftenposten. The defence now has five days to appeal the sentence.

Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, commented as follows on the verdict: “The sentencing of the two Norwegian citizens to death is completely unacceptable. Norway is against the death penalty on principle, and I will contact the Congolese Foreign Minister to make our position clear.”

“I will emphasise that legal safeguards must be maintained, and that we hold the Congolese authorities responsible for the safety of the two Norwegians. I will also request that Norway’s views are communicated to the appropriate authorities in Kisangani,” said Mr Støre in a statement.

Norway also repudiates the verdict of espionage for Norway and the decision that the Norwegian state must bear joint and several liability for damages. “Norway is not a party in this case,” stated Støre.

Representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will remain in Kisangani until further notice to assist the two Norwegian citizens in this difficult situation, and to assess what kind of help they will need in the time ahead. Norway’s Ambassador to DR Congo will meet the Congolese authorities in Kinshasha today to pass on this message. It will also be communicated to the DR Congo’s Embassy in Stockholm.

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