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North Korea sentences detained American to 15 years hard labor

The Supreme Court of North Korea on Thursday sentenced American Kenneth Bae to 15 years of hard labor for committing crimes against the country, Reuters reported, citing the KCNA news service.

KCNA, North Korea's official news agency, reported that the trial for a man it named as Pae Jun-ho, the Korean rendering of Bae's name, took place on April 30.

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As chief Asia photographer for the Associated Press, David Guttenfelder has had unprecedented access to communist North Korea. Here's a rare look at daily life in the secretive country.

The report, however, has not been independently confirmed by NBC News.

Bae, 44, a Korean-American tour operator from Lynnwood, Wash., was in a group of tourists who visited North Korea on Nov. 3 — and he has been held there ever since.

He was accused of trying to topple the government.

On Monday, the U.S. State Department called for Bae’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which often works as an intermediary for the U.S. in the country, was able to visit Bae last Friday.

A U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to Reuters said Bae had entered the North with a valid visa and that the United States did not want the U.S. citizen's case exploited for political gain.

"In the past there have been many ... instances where American citizens are used as political bargaining chips and our concern is that this individual not be used in that manner," the U.S. official told Reuters.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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