Reuters International

OSLO (Reuters) - A man serving a life sentence in jail in Democratic Republic of Congo for murder and espionage has been freed and could return to his native Norway as early as Wednesday, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said.

Joshua French, who also holds a British passport, was convicted along with fellow Norwegian Tjostolv Moland of killing their Congolese driver and spying in 2009 and were initially sentenced to death before their sentence was commuted.

The men, both former soldiers, denied the charges, saying that they had been setting up a local security business and that their driver had been shot and killed by gunmen when their car was attacked.

Moland was found dead in his cell in a military prison in August 2013 and a Congolese military court found French guilty of his murder.

A Norwegian forensics team sent to Congo as part of Norway's consular assistance to French told the court that Moland had hanged himself.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on her Facebook page she and Foreign Minister Boerge Brende would hold a news briefing on the situation with French later on Wednesday.

The Norwegian government, which denied the two men had been spying for Norway, had been seeking to have them transferred to Norway to serve their sentences.

Congolese authorities were not immediately available on Wednesday to comment on the NRK report. Norway's foreign ministry was also not available for comment.

(Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis, additional reporting by Aaron Ross in Kinshasa, Editing by Gareth Jones)

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