April 24, 2009 in Nation/World

North Korea will try two American journalists

Jean H. Lee Associated Press
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SEOUL, South Korea – North Korea has decided to put two U.S. journalists on trial following an investigation into allegations that they entered the country illegally and conducted “hostile acts,” state-run media said today.

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, journalists working for former Vice President Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were arrested March 17 near the North Korean border while reporting on refugees living in China.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said today that the investigation had concluded and that the reporters would stand trial “on the basis of the confirmed crimes.” It did not say exactly what charges they face or when the trial would take place.

State-run media had said late last month that they were being investigated for illegal entry and unspecified “hostile acts.”

Under North Korea’s criminal code, conviction for illegal entry could mean up to three years in a labor camp.

It was unclear what charges would be applied for “hostile acts,” according to South Korean legal expert Moon Dae-hong, but conviction on espionage or “hostility toward North Koreans” carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Fred Lash said Thursday night he had not seen the report and had no comment. Current TV officials were not available for comment.

The Americans’ prolonged detention comes amid tensions over North Korea’s move to fire a three-stage rocket on April 5 in defiance of international calls to refrain from a provocative launch.

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