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North Korea Releases American Detainee Jeffrey Fowle

The US State Department says Fowle, a 56-year-old from Ohio, was released Tuesday after spending nearly six months imprisoned in North Korea.

by Keegan Hamilton
Oct 21 2014, 7:00pm

Photo de Wong Maye-E/AP

Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans detained in North Korea, was released Tuesday, according to a statement issued by the US Department of State.

"We can confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to re-join his family," the State Department said, using the initials for the Democratic People's Republic ofKorea. "We welcome the DPRK's decision to release him."

Fowle, a 56-year-old from Ohio, was detained in April while on a vacation tour of the reclusive country with other travelers.

"American citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle entered the DPRK as a tourist on April 29 and acted in violation of the DPRK law, contrary to the purpose of tourism during his stay. A relevant organ of the DPRK detained him and is investigating him," North Korea's official KCNA news agency said at the time.

Reuters reported that Fowle left a bilingual English-Korean bible in a restaurant for foreigners in the port town of Chongjin. He was arrested three days later at the airport, where he was due to board a flight out of the country.

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As a condition of his release, North Korea asked the US to transport Fowle out of the country. The AP photographed what appeared to be a US Air Force passenger jet parked on the tarmac of Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang on Tuesday. Fowle was reportedly headed back to the US via Guam.

The State Department said Fowle's release was negotiated by the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang, which acts as a "protecting power" for the US in the country. Fowle's wife, a Russian hairstylist, had previously appealed to Russia's president Vladimir Putin to intervene on her husband's behalf.

The White House and State Department urged North Korea to release Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, the two other US citizens imprisoned there.

"While this is a positive decision by the DPRK, we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them," the State Department said. "The US Government will continue to work actively on their cases."

Miller, 24, was sentenced to six years of hard labor last month after reportedly tearing up his travel documents upon his arrival in North Korea on April 10. Bae, 46, a missionary, was arrested in November 2012 and is currently serving a 15-year sentence of hard labor for allegedly attempting to overthrow the North Korean government.

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North Korea allowed all three detainees to be interviewed by CNN in early September. Fowle said then he had "no complaints" about the treatment he received in North Korean custody.

"It's been very good so far, and I hope and pray that it continues, while I'm here two more days or two more decades," Fowle said.

Timothy Tepe, an attorney in Lebanon, Ohio, who represents Fowle and his family, was not immediately available Tuesday to comment on the release. In April, Tepe issued a statement saying Fowle, "loves to travel and loves the adventure of experiencing different cultures and seeing new places."

"Mrs. Fowle and the children miss Jeffrey very much and are anxious for his return home," the statement said.

Follow Keegan Hamilton on Twitter: @keegan_hamilton