North hands American man 15 years in prisonPYONGYANG - North Korea’s highest court sentenced an American tourist to 15 years in prison with hard labor on Wednesday for subversion. He allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda banner from a restricted area in his hotel at the request of an acquaintance who wanted to hang it in her church.
Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial at the North Korean Supreme Court. He was charged with subversion.
No further details were immediately available.
Warmbier was arrested as he tried to leave the country in early January. He was in North Korea as a tourist with a New Year’s tour group.
In a statement made before his trial, he told a gathering of reporters in Pyongyang that he tried to take the banner with a political slogan on it as a trophy for the mother of a friend who wanted to put it up in her church.
North Korea announced the arrest in late January, saying he committed an anti-state crime with “the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.”
Warmbier had been staying at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, located on an island in a river that runs through Pyongyang, the capital. It is common for sections of tourist hotels to be reserved for North Korean staff and off-limits to foreigners.