British ex-soldier fears defence evidence may be blocked as he faces murder trial before Congo military tribunal

Cahal Milmo

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Evidence that could clear a former British solider on death row in the Democratic Republic of Congo of the alleged murder of his best friend may not be heard at his trial due to start on Tuesday, his mother has said.

Joshua French and Norwegian national Tjostolv Moland were sentenced to death in 2009 after being convicted of espionage and the murder of a Congolese man in proceedings that drew strong criticism from international observers.

Now Mr French, 31, a former member of the Parachute Regiment who has joint British and Norwegian nationality, is due to stand trial for allegedly murdering Mr Moland, who was found dead in the cell they shared in a Congolese prison last August.

Campaigning group Reprieve said a post-mortem report by the Norwegian police and the Congolese authorities found that Mr Moland had committed suicide. A request from Mr Moland's father for the charges to be dropped against Mr French has also fallen on deaf ears.

Kari Hilde, Mr French's mother, said a team of Norwegian and Congolese lawyers as well as forensic experts has gathered in DRC ahead of the trial, which is due to take part before a military tribunal rather than a civilian court.

Mrs Hilde said: "Josh is nervous about the hearing given what has gone before. We don't know yet what evidence will be admitted, we cannot be certain about anything. But we are confident that we can present a strong case if we are allowed to do so."