NORTH KOREA’S highest court has sentenced an American tourist who allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda banner from a restricted area of his hotel to 15 years of hard labor in prison.
Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial Wednesday morning at the North’s Supreme Court. He was charged with subversion.
No further details were immediately available.
Warmbier was arrested in early January as he tried to leave the country after visiting as a tourist with a New Year’s tour group.
In a statement made before his trial, he told a gathering of reporters in Pyongyang he wanted the banner “as a trophy” for the mother of a friend.
North Korean state news agency KCNA reported that Warmbier traveled to there “to destroy the country’s unity” and that he had been “manipulated” by the U.S. government.
Appearing before journalists in Pyongyang last month, he tearfully apologized for attempting to steal the banner.
He said it was the “worst mistake” of his life.
The ‘Hermit State’ has been known to jail foreigners to exert diplomatic pressure on its rivals.
Pyongyang has been widely condemned since it conducted a fourth nuclear test and launched a rocket into space earlier this year.
Additional reporting from Associated Press