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American Freed By North Korea Arrives Home

This undated employee photo provided by the city of Moraine, Ohio, shows Jeffrey Edward Fowle, who was released by North Korea on Tuesday after a six-month detention.
This undated employee photo provided by the city of Moraine, Ohio, shows Jeffrey Edward Fowle, who was released by North Korea on Tuesday after a six-month detention.

Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET

Jeffrey Fowle, an American held since May in North Korea for allegedly leaving a bible at a club for foreign sailors, has arrived at a U.S. Air Force base in his home state of Ohio after Pyongyang released him on a "special dispensation."

Fowle, 56, landed early today at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. He disembarked carrying two bags and was met with embraces from family members.

Fowle's wife and children, appearing later before the media outside their home in West Carrollton, spoke through attorney Timothy Tepe. The lawyer said the family wanted to thank God, the State Department, the Embassy of Sweden and former U.S. Ambassador Tony Hall.

Fowle's lawyer said his client wanted people to know that he was "treated well by the DPRK and is currently in good health."

In response to reporters' shouted questions, Fowle mouthed that he was "good" and gave a thumbs up.

As we reported on Tuesday, Fowle is one of three Americans known to be held in North Korea. Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller are still held. Initial reports said that Fowle had left the bible in a hotel room and that his arrest came in June.

The Associated Press surmises he was released "[probably] because Pyongyang considered him the most minor of the three offenders, and may believe that releasing him could improve abysmal U.S. relations and even temper growing international criticism of its human-rights record."

North Korea's state media said Pyongyang decided to free Fowle on a "special dispensation" after "repeated requests" from President Obama.

"The criminal was handed over to the U.S. side according to a relevant legal procedure," KCNA said.

Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Berlin, said there had been no quid pro quo involved in securing Fowle's release from North Korean custody.

"We hope that the dynamics can develop in the next weeks, months perhaps, where we could get back to talks, and the United States is absolutely prepared to do that," Kerry said, according to Reuters.

Kerry said Washington is in contact with the families of Bae and Miller and was hoping for their release soon.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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