North Korea sentences US student to 15 years hard labour

North Korean supreme court sentences American student to 15 years hard labour for subversion

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Japan's Kyodo news agency, March 16, 2016.

North Korea's supreme court sentenced an American student to 15 years hard labour for crimes against the state, China’s Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday.

Otto Warmbier, an undergrad student at University of Virginia, said he had tried to steal a propaganda banner as a trophy for an acquaintance who wanted to hang it in her church.

Otto said he was offered a car worth $10,000 if he could get a banner and if he was detained $200,000 would be paid to his mother.

He also said that he had been encouraged by the university's "Z Society,"  a "semi-secret ring society" which he was trying to join.

The act is considered as subversion in the communist state.

Warmbier, 21, had confessed crimes against the state, he told a media conference in Pyongyang last month that his crime "is very severe and pre-planned."

The court held that he had committed a crime "pursuant to the US government's hostile policy toward [the North], in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist."

US student Otto Warmbier reacts at a news conference in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on February 29, 2016.

Otto was charged with subversion under Article 60 of North Korea's criminal code.

He was in a New Year's group tour of North Korea when he was delayed at airport immigration before being taken away by officials, according to the tour operator.

Trials for foreigners facing similar charges in North Korea are generally short and punishments severe.

Tourism to North Korea for US citizens is legal and arrests of foreigners are rare. In previous cases people who were detained made public confessions and recanted those statements after their release.

North Korea regularly accuses the US and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the US backed South Korean government to take control of the Korean Peninsula.

TRTWorld and agencies