North Korean authorities must release all those detained solely for their religious beliefs, said Amnesty International, following reports that an American tourist has been arrested after he left a Bible at a hotel.
The state news agency KCNA said the man had entered North Korea on 29 April and was detained when he tried to leave the country.
“Leaving behind a Bible in a hotel room, whether by accident or by design, should never amount to a criminal offence,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.
“There is also close to zero chance there would be a fair trial as North Korea’s court system makes a mockery of justice.”
Reports of the latest arrest comes days after a South Korean missionary was sentenced to hard labour for life. Kim Jong-uk was convicted of spying and setting up an underground church, KCNA reported on Saturday.
According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, countless numbers of nationals and foreigners have been severely punished as a result of their attempt to practice their religious beliefs.
“All those detained solely for their religious or other conscientiously held beliefs in North Korea must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Roseann Rife.
“Kim Jong-uk is likely to be sent to one of North Korea’s gruesome prison camps, where torture, forced labour, and denial of food as punishment are common.”
Three US nationals are now being detained in North Korea according to KCNA. Another missionary, Kenneth Bae, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour in 2013 while Matthew Todd Miller was taken into custody on 10 April.