North Korea sentences US citizen to 15 years hard labor | News | DW | 02.05.2013
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North Korea sentences US citizen to 15 years hard labor

North Korea has sentenced a US citizen to 15 years of hard labor, the reclusive nation's state news agency KCNA has announced. The North had accused Kenneth Bae of committing "crimes against the state."

Bae, renamed by the North as Pae Jun Ho, was sentenced to 15 years of "compulsory labor" for "hostile acts" against the North, KCNA announced on Thursday.

The state news agency reported that Bae's trial before North Korea's supreme court had taken place on Tuesday, but gave no further details.

Bae was reportedly arrested in November as he entered the North Korean port city of Rason as a member of a group of five tourists.

Rason is a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia.

Friends of Bae have described him as a devout Christian and a tour operator. Human rights activists in South Korea said Bae might have been arrested for taking pictures of starving children in North Korea.

When it announced the trial opening last Saturday, KCNA had said only that Bae had "admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea]."

Case adds to tensions

The sentencing further complicates fraught relations between the United States and North Korea following weeks of escalating rhetoric over Pyongyang's nuclear program.

Bae's sentence is heftier than the 12 years handed down to two US journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, in 2009. It took a visit to Pyongyang by former President Bill Clinton to secure their release.

Bae, 44, was born in South Korea but is a naturalised American citizen and attended the University of Oregon. According to U.S. media, he most recently lived in the Seattle suburb of Lynnwood.

The US State Department said last week that Pyongyang-based officials of the Swedish Embassy, which represents the US in legal proceedings, had visited Bae on Friday.

ccp/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)