A North Korean defector who has been on the run in Russia for nearly two decades is due to be repatriated this Friday, with human rights organizations claiming he faces certain execution.
Choe Myong-bok was working in a logging camp in Siberia in 1999, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported, but escaped guards and made his way to St Petersburg. He managed to hide in the city until his arrest by Russian authorities. A local court has now ruled that he should be repatriated to his own country.
Russia and North Korea signed an agreement in November 2014 under which nationals of either country “found to have illegally entered or been living in either country’s territory” are repatriated.
The Russian human rights group Memorial is attempting to have the court’s ruling overturned on the grounds that he faces execution. The organization has also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to seek protection for Mr Choe.
An estimated 20,000 North Koreans are reportedly working in appalling conditions in Russia, with the Chosun Ilbo claiming that at least 40 defectors are living in shelters in different parts of the country.