US student sentenced to 15 years of labour in Pyongyang

Pyongyang, March 16 (IANS) US student Otto Frederick Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for anti-North Korea crimes, the Supreme Court of North Korea said on Wednesday.

Warmbier, 21, was a student of finance from the University of Virginia. He confessed to committing the crimes of trying to take down a political slogan from a hotel, Xinhua reported.

The sentence of hard labour is being served starting from February 4, and the ruling was unappealable, the court said.

Warmbier on January 1 attempted to take down a political slogan which inspired people’s love for North Korea from a staff-only area at Yanggakdo International Hotel, where he stayed during his tour to Pyongyang.

But the slogan was too heavy to carry. It dropped to the ground after Warmbier took it down from the wall.

Warmbier escaped from the scene. He was arrested and detained by the authorities at Pyongyang International Airport on January 2.

He was charged with following the US hostile policy against North Korea and undermining the unity of the country’s people.

Warmbier was quoted as saying that the task was given by the Friendship United Methodist Church, at the encouragement of the Z Society and at the connivance of the US government, with the objective of undermining the unity of North Korean people and eventually overthrowing its system.

“The aim was to harm the work ethics and motivation of North Korean people,” Warmbier said, adding that he was used and manipulated by the church and the Z society.

The Z Society is an organisation at the University of Virginia comprising students who give time, talent and financial contribution to groups and individuals that exemplify the spirit of the society and the ideals of the university. Membership is typically anonymous.

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