North Korea sentenced American Matthew Miller on Sunday to six years of hard labor for allegedly carrying out “hostile acts” against the communist country.
The 24-year-old from Bakersfield, Calif., has been in custody since April 10, when he entered the country with a tourist group. North Korean state media reported Miller tore up his passport and sought asylum during his trip. During the 90-minute trial, a North Korean court ruled Miller (who waived his right to a lawyer) entered the country “under the guise of a tourist” and was trying to spy on the country.
Miller is one of three Americans currently in custody in North Korea. Jeffrey Fowle, a 56-year-old from Ohio, is awaiting trial after he left a Bible in a seamen’s club in May. Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae is serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor.
The U.S. State department has called on North Korea to release Miller.
The details surrounding Miller’s alleged crime remain unclear. Earlier this month, Miller, Fowle and Bae were allowed to speak to CNN for brief, surprise interviews that were monitored by North Korean officials.
Miller told the network, “I deliberately committed my crime,” but would not go into detail about what that crime was. He also called his situation “very urgent,” adding “Very soon, I'm going to trial and I will directly be sent to prison. I think this interview is my final chance to push the American government into helping me.”
Some analysts say North Korea is trying to use the detainees as bargaining chips for nuclear negotiations with the West.