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2 Americans detained in North Korea seek U.S. help

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Two American tourists charged with "antistate" crimes in North Korea said Friday that they expect to be tried soon and pleaded for help from the U.S. government to secure their release from what they say could be long prison terms.

In their first appearance since being detained more than three months ago, Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle told a local AP Television News crew that they are in good health and have been treated well. They also said they have been allowed to take daily walks. The brief meeting was conducted on the condition that the specific location not be disclosed.

Fowle said he fears that his situation will get much worse once he goes on trial.

"The horizon for me is pretty dark," he said. "I don't know what the worst-case scenario would be, but I need help to extricate myself from this situation. I ask the government for help in that regard."

It was not clear whether the men were speaking on their own initiative or whether their comments were coerced. The TV crew was permitted to ask them questions.

North Korea says the two committed hostile acts that violated their status as tourists. It has announced that authorities are preparing to bring them before a court but has not yet specified what they did that was considered hostile or illegal, or what kind of punishment they might face. The date of the trial has not been announced.

Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29. He is suspected of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin, but a spokesman for Fowle's family said the 56-year-old from Miamisburg, Ohio, was not on a mission for his church. Fowle works in a city streets department. He has a wife and three children, ages 9, 10, and 12.

"The window is closing on that process. It will be coming relatively soon, maybe within a month," Fowle said of his trial. "I'm anxious to get home."

Less is known about Miller or about which specific crime he is accused of committing.

North Korea's state-run media have said the 24-year-old entered the country April 10 on a tourist visa but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. A large number of Western tourists visited Pyongyang in April to run in the annual Pyongyang Marathon or attend related events. Miller came at that time, but tour organizers say he was not planning to join the marathon.

"I expect soon I will be going to trial for my crime and be sent to prison," Miller said. "I have been requesting help from the American government but have received no reply."

A handwritten note on the front door of his family's home in California asked for privacy.

North Korea also has been holding another American, Kenneth Bae, since November 2012.

Bae, a Korean-American missionary who turned 46 on Friday, is serving a sentence of 15 years of hard labor for what North Korea has claimed were hostile acts against the state.

2 Americans detained in North Korea seek U.S. help 08/01/14 [Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 11:49pm]
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