Britain 'extremely disappointed' at DR Congo sentencing

10th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain said it was "extremely disappointed" at the sentencing to death Thursday of a British-Norwegian man in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying it would work to prevent his execution.

Joshua French, 28, was sentenced by a military court along with Norwegian Tjostolv Moland, 29, for the murder of the Congolese driver of a car they had rented in May last year, and for spying, the prosecutor told AFP.

"We are extremely disappointed that Joshua French has been sentenced to death. We will be doing everything we properly can to support him in the coming weeks and months," a Foreign Office spokeswoman in London said.

"We are committed to supporting any British national who faces the death penalty and our prime concern in this case is to ensure that no execution is carried out."

She said Britain had previously made clear to the DR Congo government "our concerns around this case" and said it would support French and his legal team in any attempt to appeal, as well as providing consular assistance.

"We remain in regular and close contact with our Norwegian counterparts who we will work closely with to provide any assistance as required," she said.

British legal rights charity Reprieve condemned the sentence handed out in what it called a "military show trial", claiming witnesses changed their stories numerous times and were paid for appearing.

"This farce of a trial would be comical if the stakes weren't so tragically high," said Tineke Harris, deputy director for Reprieve's death penalty team.

"Each time the military prosecution changes their theory, the witnesses all obligingly change their story."

She added: "Two lives now hang in the balance and the British and Norwegian governments must press the DRC to provide a credible civilian trial for Joshua and Tjolstov and arrange for their repatriation -- before it's too late."

© 2010 AFP

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