'No progress' in Norway- Congo prisoner transfer

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Joschua French and Tjostolv Moland take a break during the trial in 2010 in Kisangani. File photo: Heiko Junge/Scanpix
12:19 CEST+02:00
Norway's Foreign Ministry has admitted little progress since a request made last year to transfer Norwegian manslaughter convicts Joshua French and Tjostolv Moland back home from the DRC, despite recently addressing the issue with the Congolese president.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide breached the topic in May with Congolese President Joseph Kabila, who promised to look into the matter. 

French and Moland were arrested in 2009 and later convicted of manslaughter in connection to the death of their driver. The two former Norwegian military staff, who were working as security contractors in the central African nation, have denied all allegations against them.

"We have clearly communicated that we want to look into whether we can negotiate a prison transfer," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Imerslund told the NTB news agency on Friday. 

Imerslund added that Norwegian authorities ask for an update from their counterparts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as often as possible about last year's transfer request. 

Joshua French's mother Kari Hilde French, is currently in Congo to meet with her son. She has also taken with her some 1,000 letters penned by family, friends, and supporters asking for Kabila to consider a prison transfer. 

The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said there was no real progress in the case. 

"This is a difficult political issue for the Congolese authorities," Imerslund said. "We have had no signals that a solution is close by." 

The trial and jailing of what The Guardian dubbed "European mercenaries", due to French having trained with the British military, received attention worldwide due to concerns the two men, then both in their late twenties, were not given a fair trial.

They were sentenced to death by a military court, and have since languished in jail as Norwegian authorities attempt to bring them home.

"May it please the garrison military court to say that the accusations against Tjostolv Moland and Joshua [French] are established and to sentence them ... to the death penalty," prosecutor Major Jean Blaise Bwa Mulundu said in his closing statement in 2010, according to a Reuters report.

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