"Urgent and personal attention" required, says letter
Last night, Rep. Ed Royce, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, sent a letter signed by 24 members of Congress to President Obama, asking that he "pursue every avenue to secure" the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists sentenced this week to 12 years hard labor in North Korea. The letter asks President Obama to give their case his "personal attention." A copy of the letter, along with a list of cosigners can be found here and is reprinted below.
"One of President Obama's highest priorities must be to protect American citizens. President Obama himself must be personally involved and see to it that every avenue to secure the release of these two brave young women is pursued," said Royce upon the release of the letter.
"We have stated it very clearly -- there is no justice system in North Korea. Laura Ling and Euna Lee should be released immediately."
In April, Rep. Royce raised the case of the two journalists in a face-to-face conversation with Secretary of State Clinton. Royce handed the Secretary a personal letter, and pressed for urgent action.
The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our grave concern over the fate of two American journalists currently held in North Korea. As you know, Laura Ling and Euna Lee of Current TV of San Francisco have been found guilty of illegally entering North Korea and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. We ask that you take urgent action and pursue every avenue to secure their release.
Simply stated, there is no justice system in North Korea. Representatives from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which is the United States' protecting power in North Korea, were not even allowed to witness the court proceedings. According to the State Department's 2008 Human Rights Report on North Korea, "Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening and torture occurred." Indeed, North Korean defectors have spoken of unfathomable horrors in labor camps. That is what these two young women face.
Without question, these two Americans should be immediately released on humanitarian grounds. Laura Ling has an ulcer condition that requires medical attention. Euna Lee has a four-year old daughter from whom she has been separated since March.
Given the horrendous conditions that face Laura Ling and Euna Lee, coupled with their draconian sentence, this situation requires your urgent and personal attention. We look forward to working with you to speed the release of these two young American journalists.
Rep. Ed Royce Rep. Joe Pitts
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Rep. Madeleine Bordallo
Rep. Shelly Berkley Rep. Peter King
Rep. Gerry Connolly Rep. Scott Garrett
Rep. Bob Inglis Rep. Betty McCollum
Rep. Michael H. Michaud Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
Rep. Tammy Baldwin Rep. Dan Burton
Rep. Elton Gallegly Rep. Jim Oberstar
Rep. Ken Calvert Rep. Jim Moran
Rep. Robert Wexler Rep. Dan Lungren
Rep. Don Manzullo Rep. Trent Franks
Rep. Albio Sires Rep. Michael Capuano