North Korea sets trial date for American journalists

Laura Ling was taken into custody March 17 along the China-North Korea border.
Two American journalists will be tried in a North Korean court on June 4, Pyongyang’s official news agency said Thursday.

The two reporters for Current TV, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are accused of entering the country illegally and intending “hostile acts.” Ling and Lee were taken into custody March 17 along the China-North Korea border. Groups representing journalists have lashed out at North Korea for detaining the two reporters. The International Press Institute last month called on North Korea to “immediately free journalists who are being used as apparent political hostages in [North Korea’s] wider diplomatic disputes with the United States.” The U.S. State Department describes North Korea as “a dictatorship under the absolute rule of Kim Jong-il.” The department’s human rights report on North Korea for 2008 says, “The judiciary was not independent and did not provide fair trials. Citizens were denied freedom of speech, press, assembly and association, and the government attempted to control all information.”

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The country’s constitution calls for public trials, except under some circumstances, and says the accused has the right to a defense, but “there was no indication that independent, non-governmental defense lawyers existed,” the report said. Watch more on the journalists ยป KCNA, the North Korean news agency, said on previous occasions that the two reporters are allowed consular contact and their treatment was governed by international laws while the investigation was under way.

The U.S. State Department said last month a Swedish diplomat was allowed to meet with the journalists. The department said previously it received information the journalists were being well treated. Current TV is based in San Francisco, California.