An American college student has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea after being accused of attempting to steal a banner with a political slogan from the hotel where he was staying.
CNN.com reports that 21-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Frederick Warmbier had traveled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based travel company.
He was arrested on January 2, 2016 as he was preparing to return home.
In a video of his trial, Warmbier gives an extremely emotional appeal to be forgiven of the crime of which he is accused.
"I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country," Warmbier states tearfully.
"I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!"
Warmbier confessed to attempting to steal the banner allegedly at the urging of a U.S. church, a secretive university organization, and the CIA. It is not known, however, whether Warmbier confessed while under pressure from North Korean authorities.
Former New Mexico Gov. and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N Bill Richardson is lobbying for Warmbier’s release. He said he met with two North Korean diplomats on Tuesday.
U.S. relations with North Korea have been particularly tense lately since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered tests of a nuclear warhead in the “nearest future.”
Publication date: March 16, 2016