Canada 'dismayed' at life sentence handed to pastor in North Korea
Canadian officials say they're "dismayed" by the life sentence handed down to an Ontario pastor who was found guilty by a North Korean court of crimes against the state.
Rev. Hyeon Soo Lim, who pastors the Light Korean Presbyterian Church in Toronto, was given the sentence after a 90-minute trial before the country's Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday that Canadian officials will continue to pressure North Korea to allow a meeting with Lim.
"We need to be able to meet with, and ensure that, Canadians are being properly treated everywhere around the world, including North Korea," Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
He added that the government is "very concerned" about the life sentence handed to Lim.
Earlier in the day, the acting director of Global Affairs Canada called Lim's sentence "unduly harsh."
"Canada is dismayed at the unduly harsh sentence given to Mr. Lim by a North Korean court, particularly given his age and fragile health," Francois Lasalle said in a statement to CTV News on Wednesday.
Top Conservatives also called the sentence “harsh.”
Conservative Party interim leader said the arrest was “an affront to Canadians’ belief in religious freedom.”
“We condemn it absolutely, and the government has our full support for any action it might take to secure his release and return to his family and congregation here in Canada,” Ambrose added.
Foreign Affairs Critic Tony Clement called it “a reflection of a cruel and unjust dictatorship that inflicts horrendous human rights abuses upon its own people, and threatens the world with its reckless nuclear ambitions.”
Lim travelled to North Korea in January as part of a humanitarian mission and he has been in detention in the communist country since February.
His family said Lim, who's in his early 60s, has made more than 100 trips to North Korea since 1997.
"Despite repeated requests, Canadian officials have not been able to meet with him to verify his health and well-being," Lasalle said.
Officials said the first opportunity they had to see Lim since his arrest was during his trial. LaSalle said North Korea violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which safeguards the right of states have consular access to their citizens.
"Like Mr. Lim's family and friends, the Government of Canada remains concerned for his rights and well-being and wishes to see him return to Canada,” Lasalle said.
Lim travelled to N. Korea on humanitarian mission
Lim regularly travelled to North Korean as part of a humanitarian mission, where he supported a nursing home, a nursery and an orphanage, according to his family.
Lim's charges included harming the dignity of the supreme leadership, trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system, disseminating negative propaganda about the country to Koreans overseas, helping American and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens, and helping defectors from the North.
In July, Lim appeared at a news conference organized by North Korean authorities in Pyongyang and admitted to plotting to overthrow the North Korean state.
Other foreigners detained in North Korea and later released have said they were coerced into making similar statements and confessing guilt during their detention.
With files from The Canadian Press