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State Department to North Korea: Free Kenneth Bae

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

The State Department is asking that North Korea free Kenneth Bae, a man from Lynnwood, Wash. who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor Wednesday. North Korea had accused Bae of plotting to overthrow its government.

In a media briefing the State Department said it had been unable to learn whether Bae's trial had been conducted fairly. It said no one from the Swedish embassy, which represents the US in North Korea, was at the trial. It was not known whether Sweden was barred from attending or had chosen not to attend.

Patrick Ventrell of the State Department told reporters the US had already raised concerns about the transparency of the North Korean legal process. He said Pyongyang should grant Kenneth Bae amnesty and let him come home.

Past detentions of Americans in North Korea have led to visits from high-profile Americans such as former president Bill Clinton. There have been suggestions that another former president may become involved this time. However, the State Department did not say it was making plans to send another dignitary.

Friends have described Kenneth Bae as a devout Christian from Washington state, based in the Chinese city of Dalian. He was arrested late last year.