American sentenced to six years of hard labour in North Korea for espionage describes prison conditions

The Supreme Court claims Matthew Miller had a 'wild ambition' to experience prison life so he could secretly investigate the Communist state’s human rights situation

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Matthew Miller, the American recently sentenced by North Korea to six years of hard labour, said he was digging in fields eight hours a day and being kept in isolation, but that, so far, his health was not deteriorating.

Under close guard and with only enough time to respond to one question, the 24-year-old spoke to the Associated Press at a Pyongyang hotel, where he had been brought to make a phone call to his family. It was his first appearance since he was convicted on 14 September of entering the country illegally to commit espionage.

“Prison life is eight hours of work per day. Mostly it’s been agriculture, like in the dirt, digging around,” said Mr Miller when asked what conditions were like. “Other than that, it’s isolation, no contact with anyone. But I have been in good health, and no sickness or no hurts.”

The interview was the fourth time North Korea’s secretive government has sent an American detainee before the Associated Press. It has given no reason for its actions. One possibility is that it is trying to pressure the US into sending a high-level representative to negotiate Mr Miller’s release, as has happened with previous detainees.

Mr Miller is one of three Americans detained in North Korea. Jeffrey Fowle, who was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a sailor’s club, is expected to be tried soon. In 2013, Kenneth Bae was given 15 years of hard labour.

Wearing a grey uniform and cap, Miller was filmed sitting down at a phone booth at the hotel while a guard stood behind him. Officials said Miller spoke to his father.

The native of Bakersfield, California, showed several letters he had written pleading for help from influential Americans, including first lady Michelle Obama.

At Miller’s 90-minute trial, North Korea’s Supreme Court said he tore up his tourist visa at Pyongyang’s airport upon arrival on 10 April and admitted to having the “wild ambition” of experiencing prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea’s human rights situation.