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Otto Warmbier, US Student, Gets 15 Years Hard Labor in N. Korea

Image: Otto Warmbier, US Student, Gets 15 Years Hard Labor in N. Korea
(AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

Otto Warmbier is taken from court in North Korea on Wednesday.

By    |   Wednesday, 16 Mar 2016 12:30 PM

Otto Warmbier, a U.S. student from Ohio, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for trying to remove a political banner from a hotel.

North Korea’s highest court convicted and sentenced the 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate during a one-hour trial, The Associated Press reported. He was charged with subversion

A tearful Warmbier said in a statement before the trial that tried to take the banner for a friend’s mother who wanted to display it in her church. He said he was offered a used car worth $10,000 for a banner and told that his mother would be given $200,000 if he was detained, the AP said. He was arrested in January as he tried to leave the country.

It is unknown whether North Korea officials coerced Warmbier’s confession, during which he appeared to read from a statement: "I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country," CNN reported.

Such public confessions often are recanted upon release from North Korea, the AP said.

Human Rights Watch condemned the sentence, saying in a statement: “North Korea's sentencing of Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor for a college-style prank is outrageous and shocking, and should not be permitted to stand," Reuters reported.

The U.S. and Canada advise against travel to North Korea, but about 6,000 westerners visit the country annually, Reuters said.

The New York Times noted that North Korea has used American detainees to gain diplomatic leverage against the United States. In the past, Americans have been released when former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang.

In 2014, detainees Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller were released after a North Korea visit by United States director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr.

American diplomat Bill Richardson, former governor of New Mexico, met with North Korean officials in New York on Tuesday to urge Warmbier’s release, the Times said.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks. North Korea leader Kim Jong Un recently claimed to have miniaturized warheads that can fit on missiles. That report came after the United Nations announced new sanctions in response to North Korea’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range rocket launch last month.

Twitter users spoke out against the Warmbier's sentence.

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Otto Warmbier, a U.S. student from Ohio, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea for trying to remove a political banner from a hotel.
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2016-30-16
Wednesday, 16 Mar 2016 12:30 PM
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