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North Korea releases video showing UVa student ‘stealing propaganda banner’

Posted at 9:49 PM, Mar 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-17 21:55:30-04

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- The North Korean government have released a video they say shows University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier stealing a propaganda banner.

Officials said the CCTV footage shows Warmbier stealing the banner after entering a restricted part of the Yanggakdo International Hotel on January 1, 2016. He was arrested on January 2, as he was about to board a plane to leave the county.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for crimes against the state on March 16.

The banner Warmbier is said to have taken from the hotel reads: “Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il patriotism!”

During a press conference in February, Warmbier admitted to attempting to steal the banner, but it’s not known whether he made the admission under duress.

Otto Warmbier

Otto Warmbier

"I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country," he said tearfully, as he begged for forgiveness.

The North Korean government alleges Warmbier was encouraged to commit the "hostile act" by a purported member of an Ohio church, a secretive university organization and even the CIA.

Human rights experts tell CBS 6 it seems the North Koreans want to use the student as a bargaining chip with the U.S. government, during a time of deep nuclear and economic tension.

Otto Warmbier

Otto Warmbier

The U.S. State Department responded to the sentencing Wednesday saying the punishment doesn't fit the alleged crime.

The sentence against University of Virginia student Otto Frederick Warmbier is "unduly harsh," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, calling for his release.

The United States urged North Korea "to pardon him and to grant him special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds," Toner said.

The CNN Wire contributed to this report