Jeffrey Fowle, one of three US citizens detained in North Korea, has been released on Tuesday and on his way back home. Mr. Fowle was arrested in May for leaving a copy of a bilingual English-Korean Bible with his contact information in a restaurant’s bathroom during his traveling in North Korea. The US government has no updates on the status of two other Americans imprisoned in North Korea — Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae.
10/22/2014 North Korea (CNN) — Jeffrey Fowle, an American arrested in North Korea in May for leaving a bible at a club for foreign sailors, has been released and is on his way home, a senior State Department official told CNN on Tuesday.
An American government plane picked up Fowle on Tuesday before flying to Guam, the official said.
North Korea announced Fowle’s detention in June, saying he had violated the law by acting “contrary to the purpose of tourism.”
Although North Korea contains a number of state-controlled churches, the totalitarian regime forbids independent religious activities, viewing them as potential threats to its authority.
CNN learned of Fowle’s release earlier Tuesday but agreed not to report the news until he landed in Guam.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest confirmed Fowle’s release on Tuesday, saying the Defense Department had arranged his transportation out of the country at the North Korean government’s request.
“We certainly welcome the decision,” Earnest said, adding that the United States has no updates on the status of two other Americans imprisoned in North Korea — Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae — and calling on North Korea to “immediately release them.”
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf echoed Earnest’s call, saying the U.S. government “will continue to work actively on their cases.”
She praised the “tireless efforts” of the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which houses the United States’ representation within North Korea since the U.S. government doesn’t have an embassy in the country.
Sen. Rob Portman said he’s pleased Fowle “is returning home to his family and can close the chapter on a horrific ordeal in North Korea.”
The Ohio Republican said he spoke with Fowle’s wife and Robert King, the U.S. special envoy on North Korean human rights issues, after Fowle — a Miamisburg, Ohio resident — was detained. He said he worked with the State Department and “many other entities to bring him home.”
“North Korea is a country with egregious human rights violations and it’s important that the U.S. continue to stand for the rights of all people, including religious freedoms, at home and abroad,” Portman said. “My prayers are with Mr. Fowle and his family as he makes the transition home.”