Two Norwegians sentenced to death in DR Congo

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Two former Norwegian soldiers have been sentenced to death in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the third time, having been accused of spying and murder.

Joshua French and Tjostolv Moland were originally sentenced in September 2009, but lost their appeal in December of the same year. The latest trial was held in April after the Congolese Military High Court overturned the original sentences and ordered a retrial. The pair are reportedly intending to appeal their sentence once again.

The pair have been accused of murdering Abedi Kasongo while they were travelling from Uganda to the DR Congo on motorcycles. When their bikes broke down, they hired Kasongo to drive them back to Uganda. The pair claim that during the journey they were ambushed by jungle rebels and Kasongo was killed. Because the former soldiers were carrying Norwegian military identification they were also accused of spying.

One of the accused holds dual Norwegian-British citizenship. UK-based charity Reprieve condemned the actions of the Congo courts. A spokesperson said that "Each time the military prosecution changes their theory, the witnesses all obligingly change their story. It is now clear why the DRC's own constitution forbids the military from administering justice."

Both suspects continue to defend their innocence, and Britain and Norway both expressed their opposition to the sentence. A Norwegian spokesperson said that "Norway is a strong opponent against the death penalty, and we have been communicating this stance to the relevant authorities. We have received assurances from the authorities that the death sentence won't be carried out and we hold the authorities responsible for the well being of these two." A spokesperson for Britain's Foreign Office said that "We will be doing everything we properly can to support him in the coming weeks and months. We are committed to supporting any British national who faces the death penalty and our prime concern in this case is to ensure that no execution is carried out."