Briton Joshua French at risk in DR Congo prison rebellion

November 30, 2011

A British national who has been held since 2009 in a prison in Democratic Republic of Congo is facing new threats to his life following a prisoners’ rebellion which has led to a stand-off with DRC military forces. Joshua French, who has dual British-Norwegian citizenship, has been held in the prison in Kisangani since being arrested on murder charges and tortured into signing a confession. On 27 November, prisoners in Kisangani rebelled, fighting with guards and police and taking control. Joshua, along with Norwegian Tjostolv ‘Mike’ Moland who is being held on the same charges, remained in his cell, only leaving to help open the clinic to treat those who had been injured. According to the latest reports, there is now a stand-off between the inmates who have taken over the prison, and military forces which have surrounded it. Legal action charity Reprieve has serious concerns that, although he has taken no part in the rebellion, Joshua could be badly injured or killed in the crossfire during any attempt to retake the prison by the authorities. Reprieve is therefore urging the Governments of the UK and the DRC to work together to facilitate Joshua’s transfer to the prison in Kinshasa, the country’s capital. Joshua’s mother, Kari Hilde said: “The past few days have been a terrifying ordeal. My son and his friend have survived this riot, but there is no way of ensuring that they will survive the next.  The prison in Kisangani is clearly out of the control and their lives are in danger. I ask that the British and the Norwegian governments do all they can to ensure that these men are transferred to the comparative safety of Kinshasa as soon as possible.” Reprieve investigator Harriet McCulloch said: “It is difficult to imagine how frightening the last few days must have been for Joshua and Mike. They have already been tortured and denied basic rights and more violence could erupt in the prison at any time. There is no way to protect the safety of these men in their current situation and it is high time for them to make a long overdue move to Kinshasa. It is imperative that the British and Norwegian governments take swift and decisive action.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information please see Joshua French’s case page on Reprieve’s website or contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / +44 (0) 7791 755 415 2. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ 

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