North Korea’s highest court sentenced an American tourist to 15 years in prison with hard labor on Wednesday for subversion.
Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea’s Supreme Court. He was charged with subversion under Article 60 of North Korea’s criminal code. The court held that he had committed a crime “pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward (the North), in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”
The 21-year-old from Wyoming, Ohio, said he had tried to steal a propaganda banner as a trophy.
Trials for foreigners facing similar charges in North Korea are generally short and punishments severe. Warmbier was arrested as he tried to leave the country in early January. He was in North Korea with a New Year’s tour group.
Warmbier had been staying at the Yanggakdo International Hotel. It is common for sections of tourist hotels to be reserved for North Korean staff and off-limits to foreigners.