The American Released From North Korea Had Been Imprisoned For Leaving A Bible Behind
After nearly six months of being detained, American citizen Jeffrey Fowle has been released by North Korea and is currently en route to the United States. A State Department official confirmed Fowle's release, saying a U.S. plane flew him to Guam on Tuesday morning, CNN reports. Fowle is one of three American citizens detained by the North Korean government earlier in 2014. State Department officials say they are currently working to bring the other detainees home safely.
Fowle was arrested in North Korea in May after allegedly leaving a copy of the Bible in the bathroom of a hotel restaurant. The North Korean government charged him with "anti-state" crimes — freedom of religion doesn't exist in North Korea, and the government there has been known to arrest those who evangelize, proselytize, or even simply practice their religion. However, Fowle's family has said that he was there as a tourist, not as a missionary, BBC News reports.
Although Fowle made a public plea to the U.S. government last month, with the help of CNN, the American tourist has said he was treated fairly and humanely by the North Korean government. Fowle said in an interview in September:
It's been very good so far, and I hope and pray that it continues, while I'm here two more days or two more decades.
The State Department is now actively working to bring home the two other detainees, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller. Bae is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence after being accused of "hostile acts to bring down [the North Korean] government." He's currently serving his time in a labor camp, where he works eight hours a day, six days a week, according to a CNN interview.
Meanwhile, Miller was accused of destroying his visa upon entering North Korea, allegedly shouting that he wanted to seek asylum in the country. North Korea originally detained Miller for unruly behavior, but later charged him with "hostile acts" against the country, alleging that he entered "under the guise" of being a tourist.
In September, Miller was sentenced to six years of hard labor his alleged crimes, though the details still remain murky. In the same CNN interview with fellow detainees Bae and Fowle, Miller said he purposefully committed his crimes, leading everyone to believe that the accusations against him are true. However, the interview was monitored by North Korean government officials, so it's possible Miller had to alter his statements then.
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