North Korea to put US journalists on trial Thursday

June 4th, 2009 - 1:42 pm ICT by ANI  

Seoul (South Korea), June 4 (ANI): Two American journalists will go on trial in North Korean capital Pyongyang on Thursday.

The great question is the degree to which Laura Ling and Euna Lee have unwittingly become pawns in a huge bargaining game since North Korean soldiers picked them up on March 17 as they were filming along China’s Tumen River border with North Korea.

“The trial depends on how useful the North Korean regime feels they are for political purposes,” the Christian Science Monitor quotes Ha Tae-keung, president of Open Radio for North Korea, as saying.

The radio broadcasts from Seoul, South Korea, for two hours daily into North Korea.

No one imagines anything other than a guilty verdict for both of them, accused of “hostile acts” and “illegal entry” as they sought to do a story on human rights abuses. No one expects, however, that the record of the trial will become public or that witnesses will come forward to provide evidence to show that they had not entered North Korea at the time of their arrest, but were either on the ice or on the Chinese side.

The two journalists work for Al Gore’s Current TV network.

The focal point of their mission was to interview female defectors, often forced into marriages and prostitution in China, and they were believed to be hoping to film defectors as they crossed the ice on the narrow, shallow river in harsh winter weather.

“Usually a trial in North Korea is one day. There is no debate,” said Ha.

While the court will almost certainly find both Ling and Lee guilty, probably of espionage charges, predictions as to the sentence range from years of hard labor to probation and suspension of jail time before they go home.

The two have been held in what’s described as a “state guest house” near Pyongyang. They have received just two visits by a Swedish diplomat representing US interests in North Korea in the absence of relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

An encouraging sign is that recently they were allowed one telephone call to relatives. (ANI)

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