Joshua French, a British man imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who was facing the death penalty, has been given a life sentence for the murder of his best friend and cellmate despite expert reports having concluded the death was a suicide.
The legal charity Reprieve says Mr French has been suffering from severe mental illness throughout the trial. He is acutely psychotic and has been refusing to eat or drink. Despite repeated and ongoing requests, Mr French has to date received only a few hours of basic care outside of Ndolo Military Prison where he is being held.
Mr French, a British citizen, has been held in DRC for nearly five 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. Yet today Mr French was sentenced for the murder of Mr Moland. The trial was held in a military court, in violation of international law and the DRC’s own constitution.
Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty team, said: “Life imprisonment in the DRC for someone with such severe mental ill health as Joshua is effectively a death sentence. He is acutely psychotic and should never have been put on trial – his best friend’s death was proven to be suicide. The UK government must do everything they can to get him transferred to a hospital where he can receive the medical attention he so desperately needs.”