July 21, 2019
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Australian who was detained in Pyongyang rejects regime's spying accusations

Tokyo, Jul 10 (efe-epa).- An Australian student who was detained in North Korea for more than a week after being accused of espionage on Wednesday denied the regime's charges against him and expressed his regret about not being able to return to the country following his deportation.

Alek Sigley, 29, had been studying a postgraduate degree in Korean literature at Pyongyang's Kim Il-sung University since late 2018. He was arrested on June 25 and expelled from the country on July 4 after Swedish embassy officials helped broker his release. After a stopover in Beijing, he arrived in Japan, where his wife, Yuka Morinaga, lives.

"The allegation that I am a spy is (pretty obviously) false. The only material I gave to NK News was what was published publicly on the blog, and the same goes for other media outlets,” Sigley said in a thread on his Twitter account.

The Korean Central News Agency – a North Korean state propaganda outlet – had said on Saturday that the Australian had been arrested for inciting anti-regime sentiments in Pyongyang and alleged that the student had "honestly admitted that he had been spying."

The student added that he was "well both mentally and physically" and said he was still interested in pursuing his academic research on North Korea but was unable to do so.

“I currently have no plans to visit the country again, at least in the short term," he said.

"The whole situation makes me very sad. I will now (be) unable to receive my master's degree from Kim Il-sung University after completing more than half the course and achieving good results," he added.

Sigley said that Pyongyang still had "a very special place" in his heart and that he regretted not being able to see his "close friends" there again.

In one tweet of his thread, the Australian also said he had no plans to grant interviews or give press conferences.

Sigley’s was the first known arrest of a foreigner in North Korea since the detention of American student Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster when he visited Pyongyang in Dec. 2015.

Warmbier was sent back to the United States a year-and-a-half later in a coma and died in June 2017, a few days after his return to his home country.

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