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Norwegian-British prisoner in DR Congo jail freed

Democratic Republic Of Congo

<p>A Norwegian man jailed for life in Democratic Republic of Congo for murder and espionage has been freed and returned to Norway, the Scandinavian country’s prime minister said on Wednesday.</p> <p>Joshua French, who also holds a British passport, was convicted along with fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland of killing their Congolese driver and spying in 2009 and was initially sentenced to death before his sentence was commuted.</p> <p>The men, both former soldiers, had denied the charges, saying that they had been setting up a local security business and that their driver had been shot and killed by gunmen when their car was attacked.</p> <p>“The Norwegian and Congolese governments have agreed to transfer Joshua French to Norway. He came back to Norway today and is receiving medical assistance,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference.</p> <p>Congolese authorities agreed to allow French to return to Norway on health and humanitarian grounds, Norway’s foreign minister Boerge Brende said.</p> <p>Moland was found dead in his cell in a military prison in August 2013 and a Congolese military court found French guilty of his murder.</p> <p>A Norwegian forensics team sent to Congo as part of consular assistance to French told the court that Moland had hanged himself.</p> <p>The Norwegian government, which has denied the two men were spies, had been seeking to have them transferred to Norway to serve their term.</p> <p>Norway considers French to be a free man, although he has not been pardoned in Congo, Brende said.</p> <p>Norway did not pay any money for his release or promise any payments in the future, he added.</p> <p>At one stage a Congolese court had ordered the Norwegian government to pay more than $500 million in damages to Congo.</p> <p>Congolese authorities were not immediately available on Wednesday to comment.</p> <p><strong><em>Reuters</em></strong></p>
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