Otto Warmbier, the 21-year-old University of Virginia student who was imprisoned in North Korea early this year after allegedly drunkenly attempting to steal a sign from a hotel, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor on Wednesday.
According to the AP, Warmbier was tried before the country’s Supreme Court during a trial that lasted approximately one hour. He was found guilty of subversion under Article 60 of North Korea’s criminal code. The AP explains:
The court held that he had committed a crime “pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward (the North), in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”
A few weeks ago, Warmbier was paraded before North Korean press to give a distressed confession that seemed to be at least partly coerced. In that press conference, Warmbier admitted to attempting to steal a sign from a staff-only area at the Yanggakdo Hotel with the goal of “harming the work ethic and the motivation of the North Korean people.”
Warmbier was further accused of, and apparently forced to admit to, being in cahoots with at least three groups: A secret society at UVA; his church back home in Cincinnati, which was allegedly going to pay his family hundreds of thousands of dollars for the sign; and of course, the United States government.
Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has dealt with North Korea on diplomatic issues in the past, met with two representatives from the country at a hotel in New York on Tuesday to urge for Warmbier’s release. But if Wednesday’s proceedings are any indication, that doesn’t appear to be happening any time soon.
The video below, via the AP, shows Warmbier being dragged out of the courtroom in handcuffs, his upper body limp and moving like a David Byrne performance piece. It is very, very bizarre.