Wednesday 22 January 2020

US citizen jailed for 10 years for spying in North Korea

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un

North Korea has sentenced a US citizen to 10 years in prison after convicting him of espionage and subversion.

Kim Dong Chul had been detained on suspicion of engaging in spying and stealing state secrets. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison with hard labour after a trial in Pyongyang.

North Korea's Supreme Court found Kim guilty of espionage and subversion under Articles 60 and 64 of the North's criminal code.

Kim's sentencing comes after a 15-year sentence was handed down to Otto Warmbier, an American university student who the North says was engaged in anti-state activities while visiting the country as a tourist earlier this year.

North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government. Some foreigners previously arrested have read statements of guilt they later said were coerced.

Most of those who are sentenced to long prison terms are released before serving their full time.

In the past, North Korea has waited until senior US officials or statesmen personally bailed out detainees, such as when former president Bill Clinton visited in 2009 and secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling. Both had crossed North Korea's border from China illegally.

In November 2014, US spy chief James Clapper secured the release of Mathew Miller, also arrested after entering the country as a tourist, and Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae, who had been incarcerated since November 2012.

Jeffrey Fowle, a detained US tourist, was released just before that and sent home on a US government plane. He left a Bible in a local club hoping a North Korean would find it, which is considered a criminal offence in North Korea.

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