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article imageUS urges North Korea to release detained tourist Merill Newman

By Layne Weiss     Dec 1, 2013 in World
Pyongyang - The White House is urging North Korea to release 85-year-old war veteran Merill Newman, of Palo Alto, California, who has been detained in the Communist country for over a month.
On Saturday, North Korean media said Merill Newman had confessed to "inedible" crimes against the state during the Korean War.
Merill's "apology", dated November 9, was published Saturday.
Newman appears in a video reading his alleged apology, which was filled with English and grammatical errors such as "I want not punish me."
"I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people," Newman read, adding: "Please forgive me."
North Korea's official Central News Agency said Saturday that Merill Newman had ordered the deaths of North Korean civilians and soldiers during the Korean War.
While Mr. Newman did serve in the Korean War, his family says he is a victim of mistaken identity, BBC News reports.
There is another Korean War veteran with the same name who was awarded a Silver Star medal.
Reporting from Seoul, the BBC's Lucy William says North Korean state media is known for publicizing "apologies" from US detainees which cannot be independently verified.
Authorities have been accused of coercing "apologies" and "confessions" from detainees.
Meanwhile, the US has also called for the release of Korean-American Kenneth Bae He has been held in North Korea since November 2012. He was sentenced in May to 15 years "hard labor."
"We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of the US citizens held in custody in the DPRK [North Korea]" said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.
"Given Mr Newman's advanced age and health conditions, we urge the DPRK to release Mr. Newman so he may return home and reunite with his family," she added.
"We continue to urge the DPRK authorities to grant him amnesty and immediate release." Hayden said regarding Kenneth Bae.
Mr. Bae has been described as a tour operator and a Christian missionary. He is accused of "using his tourism business to plot sedition."
On October 26, after a 10-day visit to North Korea, Merill Newman boarded a plane to leave the country. He was taken off that plane, and has been held ever since.
Mr. Newman's family has also pleaded for his release calling this a "dreadful misunderstanding."
They have released a statement from California saying the Swedish ambassador has visited Merill Newman at a Pyongyang hotel, The Associated Press reports.
"We were very pleased to hear that the Ambassador was allowed to pay this first visit to Merrill," the statement said. "As a result of the visit, we know that Merrill is in good health. ... Merrill reports that he is being well treated and that the food is good."
Sweden handles consular issues for Americans in North Korea since the US and North Korea have no diplomatic relationship.
Newman's family said the ambassador's visit has calmed their worries over his health. They urged North Korean authorities to let him go as an act of "humanitarian compassion."
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