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Journalists' Imprisonment Puts U.S. In A Bind

Publication Date: 
June 09, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
Joe Garofoli

Senior Lecturer in Law Allen Weiner is quoted in a story in the San Francisco Chronicle analyzing the imprisonment of two U.S. journalists in North Korea and the impact this will have on diplomatic relations between the U.S. and North Korea:

Journalists Laura Ling, 32, and Euna Lee, 36, were reporting a story about human trafficking on the North Korean-Chinese border when they were arrested March 17.

After being found guilty of crossing the border illegally and committing "hostilities" against the nation, they became the first Americans ever sentenced to a "reform" prison camp, according to the state-run North Korean news agency.

U.S. citizens are charged with crimes in foreign countries all the time. "The difference here is that we have grave doubts whether (the two journalists) have done anything wrong, or whether they were arrested because they were Americans," said Allen Weiner, a professor at Stanford University who was a State Department international negotiator in the 1990s.


"But now we are finding ourselves asking the North Koreans for something when we were trying to increase international pressure on them," Weiner said. "That big stick we're holding just got a lot smaller."