N Korea sentences Canadian pastor to hard labour for life

Hyeon Soo Lim, the head pastor at a Toronto church that is one of Canada`s largest, has been held by North Korea since February.

Reuters| Updated: Dec 16, 2015, 12:43 PM IST

Seoul: North Korea`s highest court has sentenced a South Korea-born Canadian pastor to hard labour for life for subversion, China`s official news agency Xinhua reported on Wednesday.

Hyeon Soo Lim, the head pastor at a Toronto church that is one of Canada`s largest, has been held by North Korea since February. He had appeared on North Korean state media earlier this year confessing to crimes against the state.

North Korea`s supreme court said Lim had attempted to overthrow the North Korean government and undermine its social system with "religious activities" for the past 18 years, Xinhua reported.

The court held that he fabricated anti-North Korean propaganda as part of a U.S. and South Korean-led "human rights racket" against the country, according to Xinhua.

The court said Lim confessed to helping people defect from North Korea and said he had met the U.S. ambassador to Mongolia regarding the plans, Xinhua reported.

The U.S. embassy in Mongolia had no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Most defectors fleeing isolated, repressive North Korea travel to South Korea via China and Southeast Asia, although it is possible to defect via Mongolia.

The Canadian government also declined to comment.

A church spokeswoman did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment late in the Canadian day.

North Korea`s official KCNA news agency had not reported on the court`s decision.