March 17, 2016
North Korea has sentenced an American college student to 15 years hard labor for trying to steal a political banner.
Otto Warmbier of Ohio was arrested in January at the airport as he was leaving the country after a budget youth tour.
Last month, the 21-year-old student at the University of Virginia appeared before journalists in Pyongyang. He admitted to removing a political banner from the hotel where the tour group was staying.
The North Korean court convicted Warmbier of a crime "to impair the unity of (North Korean) people after entering it as a tourist." He received the sentence in a one-hour trial.
Statements of Westerners arrested by North Korea are widely considered to be false. When released, detainees usually say their confessions were made at the urging of North Korean officials.
During Warmbier’s confession, he said the mother of a friend offered him a used car worth $10,000 in exchange for the banner. She wanted to display it as a "trophy" in her church.
The woman said if he was caught, Warmbier's mother would get $200,000, he said.
Words in This Story
detainees -- n. people who are held against their will
confession -- n. statements made to be responsible for an act