Two Americans being detained in North Korea are asking the United States for assistance as they prepare to go to trial for unspecified crimes against the state.
In the first appearance since their respective April and May arrests, Matthew Todd Miller, 24, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, told local Associated Press TV reporters that they're safe and in good health but are worried about the pending possibility of a long sentence.
"The horizon for me is pretty dark," Fowle, a father of three from Miamisburg, Ohio 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 regards."
Fowle, who's family spokesman said he was traveling in the country as a tourist, was detained for allegedly leaving a bible at a nightclub in the coastal city of Chongjin. Organized religious expression is banned by North Korea's totalitarian government, which sees it as a threat to the personality cult of the country's ruling Kim family.
North Korea's state run television station said that Miller arrived in the country on April 10 with a tourist visa but quickly declared he was seeking permanent asylum.
The two men told the AP that they are allowed to take daily walks, although it is unclear if they were speaking on their own accord.
American Kenneth Bae, 46, who was detained in North Korea almost two year ago is currently serving his 15 year sentence for crimes against the government despite efforts by the U.S. State Department to secure his release on humanitarian grounds. In an interview with a pro-North Korean Japanese newspaper last week Bae, who has suffered continual health problems, said that he feels "abandoned" by the U.S. The Swedish Embassy acts on America's behalf in Pgyongyang, as Washington has no presence in the closed-off nation.
Two American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling were detained and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor in North Korea after crossing the border from China in 2009. At the request of the State Department, Former President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyonyang and met with then-leader Kim Jong-il to secure their eventual release.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.