A North Korean court has sentenced a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.
Hyeon Soo Lim, from the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a brief trial before the North’s supreme court on Wednesday. He had been in detention since February.
Relatives of Lim have said he travelled to North Korea on 31 January as part of a regular humanitarian mission where he supports a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage.
They said Lim, who is in his early 60s, has made more than 100 trips to North Korea since 1997, and that his trips were about helping people, not political.
In the video released in August, South Korean-born Hyeon appeared to read from a script as he addressed a sparse congregation at the state-operated Pongsu Church in Pyongyang.
“The worst crime I committed was to rashly defame and insult the highest dignity and the system of the republic,” he said in the purported confession, posted on a state-controlled propaganda website.
Other foreigners detained in North Korea and then released have said they were coerced into making similar statements and confessing guilt during their detention.
North Korea has very strict rules against any missionary or religious activities that it sees as threatening the supremacy of its ruling regime. Merely leaving a Bible in a public place can lead to arrest and severe punishment.
Both the US and Canadian governments warn against travel to North Korea.
In 2014 the North released Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who was convicted of “anti-state” crimes and had been serving a 15-year sentence.
Bae, whose detention received worldwide attention, suffered medical issues in detention. He was freed along with one other American detainee after a secret mission to the reclusive communist country by James Clapper, the top US intelligence official. Bae is reportedly planning a book about his two-year-ordeal in detention.
An Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity was deported in 2014 after he apologised for anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.[Source:-The Gurdian]