It has just been revealed by Espen Barth Elde, the Norwegian Foreign Minister, that one of two imprisoned citizens of Norway, Tjostolv Moland, has been found dead in his prison cell on Sunday morning in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Moland and Brit-Norwegian Joshua French, two former soldiers, were both serving death sentences, after being charged for the murder of their driver back in 2009.
The two men, whose motorbike had broken down in the jungle, had been captured and accused of spying for Norway after they were found with military ID cards in their possession. They claimed that they were ambushed at gunpoint and denied killing their driver. But with a dead driver as well as an alleged attempted murder of a witness, the outlook was not good, leaving the authorities with no alternative but to have the men, who maintain their innocence, charged.
Their Norwegian lawyer, Hans Marius Graasvold says that there is still no clear explanation for Moland’s death, whilst the Government of Norway denies any accusations that the men were spying on its behalf. The government had earlier requested that the Congolese authorities relinquish the men to serve their respective sentences back in their homeland of Norway.
Moland, 32, and French, 31, maintain that they were simply conducting some research for their own security company recently set up after Moland had completed his work with the Norwegian military.
Although the verdict on the two men was overturned back at the start of 2010 by the high military court, a retrial was set up, with a new panel of judges, who sentenced the men again in a retrial by the end of the year.
French, of dual nationality – both British and Norwegian – grew up in the UK and served for a period in the British Army. As a result, the conviction has been robustly condemned by Reprieve, the law charity, based in the United Kingdom.
Written by: Brucella Newman