Supporters call for release of journalists jailed in North Korea

The Sacramento BeeJune 4, 2009 

Two American journalists imprisoned in North Korea likely have no inkling that people in eight cities — including Sacramento, Birmingham, Ala., New York and Washington, D.C. — rallied behind them Wednesday night and called for their release. But it gave their supporters a way to stand together.

"We are helpless," said Pat Laskey, a retired math teacher from Del Campo High School who taught one of the journalists, Laura Ling, at the Fair Oaks campus. "We don't have political clout, but we can use our thoughts, prayers and love. Everybody can make a difference this way."

Ling and Euna Lee are being held on suspicion of illegally entering North Korea and performing what the tightly controlled country has called "hostile acts."

Their trial was scheduled to begin today in North Korea, which is 16 hours ahead of Sacramento time. But as with most matters inside the isolated nation, little is known about how the trial will be conducted, how long it will take, or the reclusive government's procedures.

And with mounting nuclear tensions between the communist country and the rest of the world, the families of the journalists broke a long silence on the pair's March 17 detention. They went on national television this week to plead with the North Korean government to release the journalists on humanitarian grounds.

"If Laura and Euna had been taken at a quieter time, a path out of this might be more clear," said Bob Dietz, Asia program director for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "I don't know what's going to happen in this trial, but I don't expect a good solution."

The journalists, correspondents for San Francisco-based Current TV, were arrested while reporting on the trafficking of women along the Tumen River, a stretch of porous border between North Korea and China. The journalists did not intend to enter North Korea while reporting the story, their families have said.

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