Joshua French

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Joshua French
Born Joshua Olav Daniel Hodne French
(1982-04-07) 7 April 1982 (age 35)
Re, Vestfold, Norway.
Criminal penalty Death
Conviction(s) Murder, espionage
Killings
Victims One
Country DR Congo
Date apprehended
May 2009

Joshua Olav Daniel Hodne French (born 7 April 1982) is a Norwegian man convicted of murder and a former security contractor and soldier. He was arrested in May 2009 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) along with Tjostolv Moland, and convicted of attempted murder, armed robbery, the formation of a criminal association and espionage for Norway, and in 2014 he was also convicted of murder. He was released in 2017 after serving 8 years of his sentence.[1]

Moland and French both formerly served in the Norwegian Armed Forces and later worked in the private security industry. The men claimed that their driver was murdered by gunmen who waylaid them. On 8 September 2009, they were both found guilty and sentenced to death by a military tribunal in the regional capital, Kisangani.[2][3][4][5][6] The DRC government considered the defendants to be active duty Norwegian soldiers, contradicting the Norwegian government's insistence that they had had no connection with Norway's military since 2007. French claimed that an autopsy was not performed on the murder victim.[7] In 2014 French was also convicted of the murder of Moland.[8]

French was released on 16 May 2017 and returned to Norway the next day.[9] Joshua French has always claimed his innocence.

Career[edit]

Joshua French grew up in the municipality of Re in Norway's Vestfold county. His mother is Norwegian and his father is British. French has dual Norwegian and British citizenship.[10]

French served in the Norwegian Armed Forces until 2006 and was also trained as a paratrooper in the British Army.[11] In 2006, he was admitted to the Telemark Battalion, the Norwegian Army's elite infantry unit, but was forced to resign in 2007 when he and Moland were accused of having recruited military personnel into employment with private security companies.[12]

Trial and conviction[edit]

Major Mofanza Yombo who is one of the judges who sentenced French to death, is a prisoner of the Central Prison of Kisanghani, as of July 2011.[13]

Diplomats meeting in Democratic Republic of Congo[edit]

During a state visit to DRC in 2013, French President Francois Hollande suggested that French and Moland should be moved out of their six-man prison cell and five days later the two prisoners were transferred to a shared cell of their own.[14] Britain's Foreign Ministry had requested intervention by Hollande, given French's status as a British national.[14]

In March 2013 Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norwegian Minister of the Environment who was in DRC for talks on rain forest projects, discussed about the prisoners with authorities.

Tjostolv Moland's death[edit]

Moland was found dead in his cell on 18 August 2013 by French. French, who slept with ear plugs, had noticed that Moland got out of bed, but when he did not return from the adjoining bathroom, he woke up and found his cellmate dead. The prison officials were notified four hours later, and began investigating. DRCs minister of communications, Lambert Mende Omalanga, said that "We're trying to determine whether it was suicide or homicide. It looks like suicide but we're not sure".[15]

Soon after the death, there was speculation in DRC that French may have been involved in Moland's death.[16] In response to this speculation, Norway sent a team of investigators from Kripos together with a forensic pathologist to Kinshasa.[17] A DRC official, General Major Tim Mukuntu, said that "we don't need the Norwegian investigators, but to show openness towards the Norwegians, we have said that it is OK that they come", while DRC will still lead the investigation.[18] Norway's Foreign Ministry also posted a senior diplomat and press liaison officer to Kinshasa. French made a statement welcoming the arrival of the Norwegian investigation team.[16] The DCR Minister of Justice, Wivine Mumba Matipa, said "that she decided that Norwegian investigators had to participate during the investigation, so that speculation would stop."[19] Matipa also wanted an observer from EU alongside the Norwegians.[19]

Following the death, Morten Furuholmen, a former lawyer for the two prisoners, expressed his opinion that "there should have been more activity from the highest levels of politics, including meeting in Congo. Norway's Foreign Ministry has limited itself to short meetings during UN sessions in New York, together with one contact in Ethiopia. There haven't been meetings in Congo as far as I know".[20]

In December 2013, Congolese authorities charged French with having murdered Moland, by drugging and strangling him. The charges were met with expressions of surprise by Norwegian police and civil authorities.[21]

Reactions also pertaining to prisoner French's case[edit]

A 20 August 2013 Aftenposten article quoted Ingrid Samset (a political scientist) that a publicized suggestion of holding back development aid funds for "the war-torn nation" to pressure DR Congo is not advisable, but instead Norway ought to open an embassy in DR Congo and invest in other ways also—to show that DR Congo is a nation that Norway cares about—even after Moland's death.[22]

Joshua French's release from imprisonment[edit]

On 17 May 2017 Joshua French returned to Norway after his release from prison.[23]

Documentary film[edit]

Djo Munga (a Congolese film director) expects to release a documentary film in 2014, about French and Moland.[24] In 2013 Munga said that "Media has been one sided and unfair to Congo in their coverage of this case. So in this film I will start by showing who the Congolese are and what they care about".[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Joshua French tilbake i Norge i dag – løslatt i går
  2. ^ Norwegians given death sentence by Congo court, The Norway Post, September 8, 2009.
  3. ^ Court in Congo sentences two Norwegians to death, Guardian, 8 September 2009]
  4. ^ 4VF News (Norway), 8 September 2009
  5. ^ Norwegians to die for Congo spying, The Daily Nation, 8 September 2009.
  6. ^ Smith, David (1 September 2009). "European 'mercenaries' face death penalty in Congo". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 May 2010. 
  7. ^ French: - Det er tydeligvis noen som er ute etter å skylde på meg
  8. ^ French dømt for å ha drept Moland
  9. ^ Erlend Skevik and Oda Leraan Skjetne (17 May 2017). "Joshua French er løslatt fra fengselet i Kongo". Verdens Gang. Retrieved 17 May 2017. 
  10. ^ Eide tror det blir lettere å få utlevert French nå, Bergens Tidende, 19 August 2013, (Norwegian)
  11. ^ Kjæresten min er ingen leiemorder, Dagbladet, 27 May 2009. (Norwegian)
  12. ^ Tvunget ut av Forsvaret, Aftenposten, 2 September 2009. (Norwegian)
  13. ^ Dømte Moland og French til døden - sitter selv fengslet i sentralfengselet i Kisangani - nyheter. Dagbladet.no. Retrieved on 19 August 2013.
  14. ^ a b Moland og French har fått egen celle etter hjelp fra François Hollande
  15. ^ Norwegian jailed in Congo on murder charge dies in prison
  16. ^ a b – Norge kan ha ansvaret for Molands død
  17. ^ Ventet fire timer før han varslet om Molands død
  18. ^ - Joshua er ikke mistenkt for Tjostolv Molands død - Har bare status som vitne, ifølge generalmajoren som leder etterforskningen.
  19. ^ a b Kripos får ikke delta i Moland-etterforskning
  20. ^ Forfatter: - Dette er noe jeg har fryktet
  21. ^ Solholm, Rolleiv (11 December 2013). "Norwegian charged with murder of compatriot in Congo". The Norway Post. NRK. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  22. ^ Kristin Jonassen Nordby; Per Christian Selmer-Anderssen (20 August 2013). "- Hver dag dør en fange i Kongos fengsler". Aftenposten. 
  23. ^ Norwegian-British man released from Congo prison
  24. ^ a b Kongolesisk filmskaper skal lage dokumentar om French og Moland

External links[edit]