Joshua French, an ex-British serviceman currently being held in prison in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), is set to face trial tomorrow [Tuesday] over the death of his cellmate, despite expert reports having concluded that it was a suicide.
Mr French, a British citizen who served in the parachute regiment, has been held in DRC for nearly 5 years along with Tjostolv Moland, a Norwegian, since being sentenced to death in 2009. Both men had always maintained their innocence after a flawed trial which saw witnesses providing conflicting testimonies and a total lack of any physical evidence against them.
On the morning of 18 August last year, Mr French awoke to find that Mr Moland had killed himself. According to the Congolese police, an autopsy conducted jointly by them and the Norwegian police agency Kripos confirmed that Mr Moland had committed suicide. However, Mr French is now facing trial for Mr Moland's murder.
Mr Moland’s father has written to the Congolese authorities asking for the charges against Mr French to be dropped but the request has not been answered. Mr French’s trial will begin on Tuesday 7 January, and will be held in a military court, in violation of the DRC's constitution and international law.
Legal charity Reprieve is calling on the British Government to intervene at the highest level without delay to prevent the trial or, at very least, have it transferred to a civilian court. Reprieve wrote to the Prime Minister on 11 and 20 December 2013 to alert him to the situation.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty team said: "The government has already tallied too long. These are sham charges and the Prime Minister needs to intervene without delay to protect the rights of British citizen, Joshua French. If the trial goes ahead in a military court, Joshua may well be given a death sentence, and all hopes of him leaving the prison alive will be dashed.”
Joshua's mother, Kari Hilde said: "Joshua has already lost his best friend and nearly five years of his life. Now he's being falsely accused of murder. How much more will he have to endure before the British government takes serious action?"
1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / 8166 / firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com