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Two American tourists detained in N Korea seek help from Washington, says report

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 August, 2014, 4:23pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 August, 2014, 6:12am
 

American tourist Jeffrey Fowle was arrested by North Korean authorities for leaving a Bible under a bin in the toilet at a club for foreign sailors, a source familiar with the case said.

Fowle had been on a 10-day trip to North Korea.

On May 4, towards the end of an evening spent eating and drinking in Chongjin, a large industrial city on North Korea's east coast, Fowle's action led to him being thrown in jail, where he is awaiting trial.

He left a bilingual English-Korean Bible in the restaurant he and his fellow travellers were about to leave, said the source, who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivities surrounding the case. In it, Fowle had written his name and phone number, and inserted photos of himself and his family between its pages.

He was arrested three days later at the airport where he was due to board a flight out of North Korea.

 

Fowle and fellow detained US tourist Matthew Miller - who was arrested in April over a separate incident - said that they would face trial soon and had called on the American government to help secure their release.

A handwritten letter from 56-year-old Fowle confirmed he was arrested for intentionally leaving a Bible in Chongjin.

It is unclear why Fowle left the Bible, the source familiar with Fowle's case said. Media reports in Ohio said he was a churchgoer and was once a member of his school's Bible club - but there is little evidence to suggest he was a missionary.

The source familiar with Fowle's arrest also said he did not seem overtly religious.

Yet at the Chongjin Seamen's Club - a faded compound originally designed as a hostel for visiting mariners that sells foreign whiskies and serves local food - Fowle wrapped a bilingual English-Korean Bible bound in fake leather in a Chinese newspaper and hid it the restroom, under a bin designed to discard the used toilet paper North Korea's ageing plumbing cannot handle.

A cleaner found the package, and alerted local authorities.

When his guides asked if anyone had left anything at the club - a small cluster with shops, a sauna and noodle restaurants also open to locals with the cash to spend on cheap drinks - he said it was him, and that he "must've dropped it".

Fowle said at the time that the Bible had "fallen out of his pocket" when he was using the squat toilet, but that the book was too big to be pocket-sized, the source said.

"They don't mess about in Chongjin," one tourism source with experience of working in the city said.

 


Pyongyang accuses UN Security Council of double standards

North Korea has accused the United Nations Security Council of double standards by condemning its recent ballistic missiles launches while ignoring "provocative" joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

Pyongyang officials held a news conference at the United Nations to push for an emergency Security Council meeting on the military exercises, which the North routinely denounces as preparation for war.

Its deputy UN ambassador Ri Tong-il said Pyongyang wrote to the 15-member council, of which the US and South Korea are members, on July 21 to request the body take up the issue. He said the council had not responded.

Ri warned that the military exercises could lead to war and that "the full responsibility of that will lie upon the United States and the UN Security Council for illegally defending and supporting the US".

UN diplomats said there were no plans for a meeting as there was no support for the North Korean request among council members.

The annual military drills have been conducted since 1953 without a major incident. The US and South Korea emphasise that the exercises always have been purely defensive and aimed at testing readiness against any possible North Korean aggression.

North Korea is under an array of UN, US and other national sanctions for its insistence on nuclear and ballistic missile tests since 2006 in defiance of international demands to stop.

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