Two U.S. journalists will stand trial for alleged crimes in North Korea, the government announced Friday.
“A competent organ of [North Korea] concluded the investigation into the journalists of the United States,” state-run news service KCNA reported. “The organ formally decided to refer them to a trial on the basis of the confirmed crimes committed by them.” The two reporters for Current TV, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, are accused of entering the country illegally and intending “hostile acts.” KCNA said the allegations “have been confirmed by evidence and their statements.” Groups representing journalists have criticized North Korea for detaining the two reporters. The International Press Institute, earlier this week, called on North Korea and Iran to “immediately free journalists who are being used as apparent political hostages in their 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 » KCNA said the two reporters were allowed consular contact and their treatment was governed by international laws while the investigation was underway.
The U.S. State Department said last month a Swedish diplomat was allowed to meet with the journalists. The department said previously it had received information that the journalists were being well treated. Ling and Lee were taken into custody March 17 along the China-North Korea border. Current TV is based in San Francisco, California.