Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The North Korean regime yesterday evening released Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans locked up in their prisons, who has already returned home. The United States government "is working" to secure the release of the other two countrymen, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, who were sentenced to 6 and 15 years of hard labor. Washington has long accused Pyongyang of using arrests and convictions of foreign nationals as a "bargaining chip" in diplomatic relations.
Jeffrey Fowle entered North Korea last April 29 and was arrested in early June while he was about to leave the country. Accused of "anti-state crimes," he was jailed in the northern city of Chongjin. According to some sources, he left a Bible in the bathroom of a restaurant: his family denies the allegations and said that "he does not work and has never worked" for his church. In the country - where there is no religious freedom -foreign missionary activity is considered a criminal offense.
In August, along with Matthew Miller, Fowle recorded a television appeal addressed to the American government, asking it to "do everything possible" for his release. US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she was delighted at the news of the release adding that US officials "remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on North Korea to immediately release them".