North Korea has sentenced an American student to 15 years of hard labour after he was arrested while visiting the repressive country. Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was detained in January for trying to steal a banner bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel in Pyongyang. He later appeared on state TV apparently confessing and saying a church group had asked him to bring back a "trophy" from his trip. Warmbier, who is from Wyoming, Ohio, and was 21 at the time of his arrest, told a press conference in Pyongyang last month that his crime "is very severe and pre-planned."
"The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people. This was a very foolish aim," he was quoted as saying. He said it was the "worst mistake" of his life. The young man was at the end of a five-day New Year's group tour of North Korea when he was seized at airport immigration.
State media has not yet reported the sentencing, but China's Xinhua state news agency said it was handed down by the Supreme Court. The sentencing is seen by some as overly harsh and has been linked to the worsening relations between the US and North Korea, Mirror.co.uk reports.