Detained American in North Korea gets trial date
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Detained American Matthew Miller will be tried next Sunday, North Korean state media said, less than a week after the detainee made a rare foreign media appearance to plead for help.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief dispatch Sunday that the Supreme Court decided to “judge” Miller on Sept. 14. It did not elaborate on specific charges against him, although past reports have accused him of hostile acts.
Miller, 24, was detained after entering the country April 10, when he tore up his tourist visa at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency has reported.
In a brief interview with The Associated Press in Pyongyang last week, Miller and two other Americans held by North Korea, Jeffrey Fowle and Kenneth Bae, called for Washington to send a high-ranking U.S. representative to make a direct appeal for their freedom.
North Korea has often used detained Americans as bargaining chips with Washington in the past. Senior statesmen including former President Bill Clinton have made trips to Pyongyang to secure the release of detainees.
Bae, a Korean-American missionary who is accused of plotting to overthrow Pyongyang regime, has been sentenced to a 15-year term. He said last week that his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day.
Fowle arrived in the country on April 29. He is suspected of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea. Fowle lives in Miamisburg, Ohio, and has a wife and three children.
National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said White House has “closely” followed their cases and that it is doing all it can to win the “earliest possible release” of three Americans being held in North Koreaa.
The U.S. has repeatedly offered to send its envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, to Pyongyang to seek a pardon for Bae and other U.S. detainees, but without success. Washington has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and no embassy in Pyongyang. Instead, the Swedish Embassy takes responsibility for U.S. consular affairs.
Fowle and Miller said they have met with the Swedish ambassador and have been allowed to make phone calls to their relatives.