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Journalists could face trial in the DPRK

TWO American journalists suspected of committing "hostile acts" against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and entering the country illegally will be indicted and put on trial, Pyongyang's state-run agency said yesterday.

Conviction on the charges could mean more than 10 years in a prison labor camp.

Euna Lee and Laura Ling, reporters for former US Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were detained by North Korean border guards on March 17 during a reporting trip.

A preliminary investigation confirmed the accusations against the reporters and the two will stand trial, North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said yesterday, without citing a date for the trial.

"The illegal entry of US reporters into the DPRK and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements," the report said.

The report did not elaborate on what "hostile acts" the journalists allegedly committed, and experts said it was difficult to determine which punishment would be applied if the women are convicted.

Conviction of illegal entry carries up to three years in prison in North Korea, according to the Information Center on North Korea, an agency affiliated with Seoul's Unification Ministry.

The more serious crimes of espionage or "hostility toward North Korean people" are punishable by 5 to 10 years in a prison camp or more than 10 years in some cases.

The move comes at a time of mounting tensions in the region as North Korea prepares to launch a rocket over the objections of its neighbors.


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