N Korea sentences Canadian pastor to life imprisonment

North Korea has sentenced a Canadian pastor to life imprisonment following his arrest at the beginning of the year on subversion charges.

AFP| Last Updated: Dec 16, 2015, 12:57 PM IST

Pyong Yang: North Korea has sentenced a Canadian pastor to life imprisonment following his arrest at the beginning of the year on subversion charges, China`s official Xinhua news agency reported Wednesday.

South Korean-born Hyeon Soo Lim, pastor at the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was sentenced by the Supreme Court following a brief trial, Xinhua reported from Pyongyang.

The court found Lim guilty of joining the United States and South Korea in fomenting an anti-North Korean human rights "racket" and fabricating and circulating propaganda tarnishing the North`s image.

He was also accused of funding and helping defectors wanting to flee North Korea.

According to the Supreme Court, Lim confessed to all the charges and showed "deep remorse", Xinhua said.

Lim was detained by the North Korean authorities in January after arriving from China.

According to his church in Toronto, he was on a humanitarian mission and had visited the North on numerous occasions to support work with orphanages and nursing homes.

In August, the North released a video showing Lim attending a Sunday service at Pyongyang`s Pongsu Church and confessing to various charges in an address to a small congregation that included a number of foreigners.

"I committed the gravest crime of insulting and defaming the top dignity and the leadership of the republic," Lim said in the video.

Foreigners detained by the North Korean authorities are habitually required to make public, officially scripted pronouncements of their guilt in order to help secure their eventual release.

Pyongyang views foreign missionaries with deep suspicion, though it allows some to undertake humanitarian work.

A number of Christian missionaries -- mostly ethnic Koreans who are US citizens -- have been arrested in the past with some of them only allowed to return home after intervention by high-profile US political figures.

Although religious freedom is enshrined in the North`s constitution, it does not exist in practice and religious activities are restricted to officially recognised groups linked to the government.