North Korea Sentences 2 American Journalists to 12 Years of Hard Labor

By | June 8, 2009

North Korea on Monday sentenced two American journalists to 12 years of hard labor in a case widely seen as a test of how far the isolated Communist state was willing to take its confrontational stance toward the United States.

The Central Court, the highest court of North Korea, held the trial of the two Americans, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from Thursday to Monday and convicted them of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry,” the North’s official news agency, KCNA, said in a report monitored in Seoul.

Ms. Ling and Ms. Lee have been held since they were detained by North Korean soldiers patrolling the border between China and North Korea on March 17.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the charges “baseless.”

The United States government had demanded that the North forgo the legal proceedings and release the two women.

The sentencing came amid rising tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. Earlier Monday, North Korea threatened to retaliate with “extreme” measures if the United Nations punished it for its nuclear test last month, and Washington warned that it might try to put the North back on its list of states that sponsor terrorism, a designation that could subject the impoverished state to more financial sanctions.

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