Family of detained American in North Korea asks for his return

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Story highlights

  • Jeffrey Fowle visited North Korea as part of a tour group earlier this year
  • Fowle is one of three Americans detained in North Korea
  • His family and lawyer asks for help in his return

The family of Jeffrey Edward Fowle, an American tourist detained in North Korea for apparently breaking an unspecified law, has apologized to the reclusive state and asked for his release.

Fowle's wife and their three children appeared at a news conference in Lebanon, Ohio, Tuesday, in which the family's lawyer, Timothy Tepe read a statement.

"The family would like to express its heartfelt apology to the people and the government of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea). Jeff has apologized publicly for his actions and Jeffrey's family petitions the government of the DPRK for mercy toward Jeffrey and asks for his release."

Fowle's family has been writing to U.S. President Barack Obama and previous presidents including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter to help his case. In previous cases of arrested Americans in North Korea, visits by U.S. former heads of state helped secure their return. Carter visited Pyongyang in 2010 to free American Aijalon Mahli Gomes and Clinton also made the trip to free U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee in 2009.

The family of Jeffrey Edward Fowle sit with their attorney, Tim Tepe, during a news conference regarding the American, who is currently detained in North Korea.

"The next few days are critical as we approach the trial date," Tepe said at the news conference, attended by CNN affiliate based in Dayton, Ohio, WHIO.

There was no official announcement of a trial date from North Korea's state-run, Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Plea for help

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Earlier this month, the Associated Press, which has a bureau in Pyongyang, was granted an interview with Fowle and another American held in the country.

In the interview released on August 1, Fowle told the wires service, that "the window is closing on that process. It will be coming relatively soon, maybe within a month," Fowle said of his trial.

In the interview, Fowle apologized to both the United States and North Korea. He also wrote a letter, in which it stated: "I intentionally left a Bible in a nightclub." He wrote that he had been treated well, but it was unclear whether the statement was written freely or whether he was pressured.

Tepe said the family has received one phone call and one letter from him in North Korea.

"They're desperate for his release and his return home. As you can imagine, Jeffrey is the primary financial provider for his family and [his wife] Tatyana is struggling to manage by herself," Tepe said at Tuesday's news conference.

Three Americans in custody

In June, KCNA reported that authorities were investigating Fowle, whom it said violated the law by acting "contrary to the purpose of tourism."

Citing unidentified sources, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Fowle was part of a tour group and that he was detained in mid-May after allegedly leaving a Bible behind.

In a previous statement, the family had said,"Jeffrey loves to travel and loves the adventure of experiencing different cultures and seeing new places."

Fowle is one of three Americans detained in North Korea, including Matthew Todd Miller, who was taken into custody on April 10, according to KCNA and Korean-American missionary, Kenneth Bae, who has been sentenced to 15 years hard labor in 2013.

READ: Kenneth Bae feels abandoned by U.S.