Although 24-year-old American Matthew Miller was holding out hope that a senior US Statesman would come to his aid, it never happened. Miller was sentenced to six years hard labor by a North Korean court. From Bakersfield, California, Miller went to North Korea with a tour company based in New Jersey on April 10, 2014.
According to John Dantzler-Wolfe, director of Uri Tours, the tour company that Miller was traveling with, he saw nothing in Miller’s application for travel that caused reason for concern.
According to reports, Miller had entered the country illegally for the purpose of spying on the highly secretive state. Reportedly, Miller tore up his tourist visa while on the trip, stating he wanted asylum. He was held until his trial today, which lasted only 90 minutes and resulted in a conviction and sentence. In the North Korean Supreme Court, the prosecution argued that Miller’s ruse was to enable him to commit espionage against the country.
It was also reported that Miller made a statement about being eager to experience prison life as part of his mission to secretly investigate the human rights situation in North Korea. Prosecutors also alleged that he falsely claimed that his iPod and iPad contained proprietary information pertaining to United States’ military being in South Korea.
Miller is now the third United States citizen detained while in North Korea to go through a trial and be jailed. The first was Kenneth Bae, a 45-year-old Korean-American missionary now serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor and the second, 56-year-old Jeffrey Fowle from Ohio who works to repair streets. Although Fowle has been charged with leaving a Bible at a seaman’s club, he is still awaiting trial.
Earlier this month, authorities allowed all three men to be interviewed briefly. In Miller’s statement to CNN, he said that he was ready to violate the DPRK law prior to coming to North Korea and that the crime he was accused of was committed deliberately. However, when pressed as to why he tore up his tourist visa, Miller had no comment.
According to the Associated Press, Miller waived his right to a lawyer for today’s trial. He was led into the courtroom in handcuffs and then escorted out once sentencing was handed down. According to the court, no appeals will be heard on the case.
North Korea has been trying to use American detainees for a long time as an effort to gain attention and concessions from Washington DC, one being that Pyongyang give up its nuclear ambitions. While some of the prior detainees have been released to do advancing age or health problems, they were required to admit to “hostile acts” toward North Korea via television or signed document first.