North Korean courts sentenced an American student to 15 years of hard labor March 16 after he stole a poster of Kim Jong-il from the wall of his hotel.
Newly released footage documenting the incident is now available on the Internet, the Daily Mail reports.
University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, 21, was on vacation when he entered a restricted area of Yanggakdo International Hotel in January and committed what North Korea calls “severe crimes” against the country.
Warmbier stole a banner that reads, “Let's arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il patriotism!” The student explained he stole the poster for a fellow church member, the mother of a friend.
The friend offered a used car worth $10,000 for the poster, and said they’d donate $200,000 to his mother if he was detained.
“When I got off work, there was nothing amiss,” a witness who works for the hotel said. “But when I returned, I thought someone had deliberately taken the slogan down, so I mobilized security to prevent damage to it and reported it to the authorities.”
Warmbier was later arrested at the airport.
He responded to his 15-year-sentence March 16 by pleading the court to “'please think of my family” and prayed for God to “please save this poor scapegoat.”
The White House is now calling the sentence “unduly harsh” and demands Warmbier's “immediate release” from jail.
The United States asked North Korea "to pardon him and to grant him special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds," U.S. State Department Mark Toner said, CNN reports.
“Despite official claims that U.S. citizens arrested in the DPRK are not used for political purposes, it's increasingly clear from its very public treatment of these cases that the DPRK does exactly that,” Toner added.
However, the release may be unlikely to occur given President Obama recently added more sanctions on North Korea March 16.
“The U.S. and the global community will not tolerate North Korea's illicit nuclear and ballistic missile activities, and we will continue to impose costs on North Korea until it comes into compliance with its international obligations," the statement said.