In more WTF North Korea news a 21-year-old student from the US has just been sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in the country. His crime? Stealing a banner from the restricted area of a hotel he was staying in.
Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was on a trip organised by a China-based travel company called Young Pioneer Tours. He was arrested on January 2nd of this year as he tried to board a flight back to Beijing. He was accused of committing ‘hostile acts’.
North Korea accused him of trying to ‘destroy the country’s unity’ and said that he had been ‘manipulated’ by the US government.
Last month, Warmbier was tearful at a press conference in Pyongyang where he said he had ‘committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel.’ It is not known whether he admitted his guilt under duress or not, CNN reports.
Reading from what appeared to be a statement he tearfully said,
‘I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country’, as he begged for forgiveness.
He said it was the ‘worst mistake’ of his life. His harsh sentencing has come despite a veteran US diplomat, who has previously secured the release of Americans from North Korea, meeting with North Korean officials at the UN in New York to make the case for Warmbier’s release.
The UN recently imposed their toughest ever sanctions on North Korea in response to them conducting their fourth nuclear test and launching a satellite into space. The BBC point out that a 15-year sentence is even high when compared to those given to foreigners in the past. Their correspondent, Stephen Evans, says such draconian measures could be a result of how high tensions are running at the moment.
The US department of State does not encourage American citizens to travel to North Korea, on their website a travel warning reads,
‘The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or DPRK). This replaces the Travel Warning for North Korea of April 15, 2015, to reiterate and highlight the risk of arrest and long-term detention due to the DPRK’s inconsistent application of its criminal laws.’
You might also be interested in:
Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt
This article originally appeared on The Debrief.