US student sentenced to 15 years hard labour in North Korea

Otto Frederick Warmbier reportedly stole a propaganda banner from a hotel

Otto Frederick Warmbier, North Korea, US, student, University of Virginia, propaganda,

American student Otto Warmbier (centre) is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea | Image: Jon Chol Jin / AP/Press Association Images

An American student has been sentenced to 15 years hard labour in North Korea for 'crimes against the state'.

21-year-old Otto Frederick Warmbier was arrested in January, accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner from a hotel in Pyongyang.

North Korean state media said he had confessed to taking a sign from a 'staff only' area of the hotel.

The University of Virginia student was arrested at the end of a five-day tour of the country.

The judgement was handed down by North Korea's Supreme Court, the North's official KCNA news agency said.

The sentence was handed down just hours after veteran US diplomat Bill Richardson reportedly met two diplomats from North Korea's United Nations office in New York, to press for the student's release.

Last month, a news conference was held where he tearfully confessed to "severe crimes" against the state.

He was seen emotionally begging for forgiveness during the news conference.

He said he had made "the worst mistake of my life" by stealing a propaganda banner.

The 21-year-old was allegedly being offered a car worth US$10,000 (€9,187) if he successfully returned to the US with the political slogan.

As Mr Warmbier attempted to board a flight from Pyongyang to Beijing on January 2nd, he was detained by two airport officials.

Mr Warmbier was travelling with a China-based tour company called Young Pioneer, which describes itself as providing trips "to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from".