20:11 GMT +313 December 2019
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    American student Otto Warmbier, center, is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang.

    North Korea Releases Video of US College Student Stealing Propaganda Poster

    © AP Photo / Jon Chol Jin
    Asia & Pacific
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    After sentencing an American student, Otto Warmbier, to 15 years of hard labor, the North Korean government has released surveillance video of the crime the 21-year-old described as the "worst mistake of his life."

    In January, authorities in Pyongyang arrested Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, at the airport as he prepared to end a five-day trip to the DPRK. His crime? Stealing a government poster from his hotel.

    Pyongyang has now released CCTV footage of the incident, in which Warmbier can be seen removing a banner that reads "Let’s arm ourselves strongly with King Jon-il Patriotism." The incident occurred in a restricted area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel.

    ​During trial, Warmbier’s tour guide testified against him, and a second witness described the scene of the crime.

    "When I got off work, there was nothing amiss," the witness told the court.

    "But when I returned, I thought someone had deliberately taken the slogan down, so I mobilized security to prevent damage to it and reported it to the authorities."

    Prosecutors also presented fingerprint evidence.

    During his trial, Warmbier pleaded with judges to "please think of my family" and prayed to "please save this poor scapegoat."

    The US government has condemned the sentence, calling it “unduly harsh” and politically motivated.

    "Despite official claims that US citizens arrested in the DPRK are not used for political purposes, it’s increasingly clear from its very public treatment of these cases that the DPRK does exactly that," US State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

    The student’s arrest and sentencing comes amid renewed hostilities between North Korea and the West. The United Nations has implemented harsh new sanctions on Pyongyang following its test of a nuclear device in January.

    The new sanctions also relate to North Korea’s satellite launch last month, which the UN deemed a veiled attempt to demonstrate its ballistic missile capabilities.

    On Wednesday, President Obama issued an executive order enabling the US implementation of the UN Security Council resolution.

    "These actions are consistent with our longstanding commitment to apply sustained pressure on the North Korean regime," the order reads.


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    Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), propaganda, Kim Jong-il, Otto Frederick Warmbier, United States
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