Last April I wrote about the cases of two reporters for San Francisco-based Current TV, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, charged with trespassing in North Korea. They were arrested on March 17 near the North Korean border where they were reportedly covering the story of the trafficking of women. (Interesting that North Korea would not want such a story covered.) North Korean officials said on March 31 that the reporters would be indicted on charges of “illegal entry” and perpetrating “hostile acts” against the Communist state.
On June 8 Ling and Lee were convicted by the nation’s top Central Court of an undefined “grave crime” against the hard-line regime. In a terse statement, the state-run Korean Central News Agency did not say where the women are to serve the time. And because the reporters were tried by the nation’s highest court, there can be no appeal.
The legal process surrounding the sentencing was a flagrant violation of due process, Amnesty International has said. “No access to lawyers, no due process, no transparency: the North Korean judicial and penal systems are more instruments of suppression than of justice,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific deputy director.
Watch the AP report.
North Koreans who receive similar sentences of “reform through labor” often face starvation and torture in a penal system many consider among the world’s most repressive, David Hawk, author of The Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps, told the Chicago Tribune.
“These places have very high rates of deaths in detention,” Hawk said. “The casualties from forced labor and inadequate food supplies are very high.” Many of the camps, he said, are affiliated with mines or textile factories where long work shifts are often followed by self-criticism sessions and forced memorization of North Korean communist policy doctrine.