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Mercenary given death sentence

Two mercenaries, one of them British, were sentenced to death by a Congolese court yesterday for allegedly killing their driver.

Joshua French, 28, who has dual British and Norwegian nationality, and Tjostolv Moland, 29, a Norwegian, face execution by firing squad after being found guilty of espionage and murder.

Both worked as security guards in the African country. Their driver, Abedi Kasongo, 47, was murdered in May 2009 and they were arrested as they tried to flee. They claimed Mr Kasongo was shot dead by robbers who attacked their car.

Their initial death sentences were quashed in April but a second trial was ordered. Yesterday the pair were again sentenced to death – but campaigners called the hearing "a farce".

The legal rights charity Reprieve claimed both men suffered miscarriages of justice, saying French was subjected to a mock execution before being forced to sign a confession. Moreover, he suffers from cerebral malaria, has hallucinations and believes he is in spiritual contact with a Pygmy.

French, who spent his childhood in Margate, Kent, trained as a British paratrooper before serving in the Norwegian army, where he met Moland. Both left the forces in 2007 and worked as private security guards.

Last night, the British embassy in Kinshasa said it was disappointed with the verdict. A spokesman added: "We are in close contact with the lawyers and will raise any fair trial issues they come across and continue to make representations on Mr French's behalf."