US citizen Merrill Newman, who is detained for more than a month in North Korea, has confessed to committing “indelible crimes” against the state, say North Korean state media.
The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Merrill Newman had ordered the deaths of North Korean soldiers and civilians in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The agency published what it described as a “statement of apology” by Merrill Newman.
Merrill Newman, now 85, did serve during the Korean War but his family says he is the victim of mistaken identity.
Pyongyang’s state media has routinely publicized alleged apologies from previous American detainees, which cannot be independently verified.
Authorities have previously been accused of coercing confessions from detainees.
Some observers say Merrill Newman’s alleged confession could allow North Korea to release him without formal legal proceedings.
Merrill Newman – a retiree from Palo Alto, California – has been held in North Korea since being taken off a plane as he prepared to leave the country on October 26, following a 10-day tourist visit.
In video released by North Korean authorities, Merril Newman is shown reading his alleged apology, dated November 9.
“During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people,” the 4-page statement reads, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
The statement also claims Merrill Newman was an “adviser of the Kuwol Unit of the UN Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command” – an apparent reference to one of the special operations units acting against the North.
Merrill Newman apparently confesses to trying to contact surviving soldiers during his trip as a tourist.
The statement adds: “Please forgive me.”
However, Merrill Newman’s family has said there must have been “some dreadful misunderstanding” and have appealed for his release, saying he may need medication.
Another veteran, also named Merrill Newman, was awarded a Silver Star medal for his efforts during the Korean War.
He has previously told Reuters news agency he thought it was possible there had been “a case of mistaken identity”.
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