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N. Korea Puts 2 U.S. Detained Journalists on Trial

Posted June. 05, 2009 08:06,   


North Korea yesterday began the trial of two American journalists 79 days after they were arrested near the North’s border with China.

Around 1 p.m., the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said, “The Central Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will begin the trial of Laura Ling and Lee Seung-eun (known as Euna Lee in the U.S.) at 3 p.m. June 4.”

Ling and Lee are the first Americans put on trial in North Korea, and Pyongyang has given extra media attention to their trial.

Working for the San Francisco-based media Current TV, the two journalists were arrested March 17 while reporting on the plight of North Koreans hiding in China.

They are charged with “illegal entry” and having the intent to commit “hostile acts.”

The North’s court is the highest in the country, so the two will reportedly have one trial. The ruling was expected yesterday or few days later.

Choi Eun-seok, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in the South Korean coastal city of Masan, South Gyeongsang Province, said, “North Korea has a double-trial system but the Central Court could also hold a single trial. The court should finish the trial within 25 days after indictment. On the assumption that North Korea indicted the two journalists May 14, the verdict could come by late Sunday.”

Ling and Lee have spoken to the Swedish ambassador to Pyongyang three times. According to U.S. media, they sent letters to their families May 15 and were allowed to talk to them on the phone May 26.

Pyongyang could still release them after talks with Washington even if they are convicted of the charges, however, to improve bilateral relations.

Given the North’s recent series of provocations, including a second nuclear test, the release of the two journalists could be delayed to pressure the U.S. government.