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North Korea gives Canadian pastor life for 'crimes against state'

Published 16/12/2015

Hyeon Soo Lim is escorted to court in Pyongyang (AP)
Hyeon Soo Lim is escorted to court in Pyongyang (AP)

North Korea's supreme court has sentenced a Canadian pastor to life in prison with hard labour for what it called crimes against the state.

Hyeon Soo Lim, of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a brief trial. He had been detained since February.

Mr Lim appeared earlier at a news conference organised by North Korean authorities in Pyongyang in July and admitted plotting to overthrow the North Korean state, but other foreigners detained in North Korea and then released have said they were coerced into making similar statements and confessing guilt during their detention.

His relatives and colleagues have said he travelled on January 31 as part of a regular humanitarian mission to North Korea where he supports a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage.

They said Mr Lim, who is in his early 60s, has made more than 100 trips to North Korea since 1997 and they were about helping people and were not political.

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 possibly severe punishment.

Both the US and Canadian governments warn against travel to North Korea.

Last year the North released Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who was convicted of "anti-state" crimes and had been serving a 15-year sentence.

Mr Bae, whose detention received worldwide attention, suffered medical issues in custody. 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. He is reportedly planning a book about his two-year-ordeal.

An Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity was deported last year after he apologised for anti-state religious acts and requested forgiveness.

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