Hyeon Soo Lim: North Korea releases Canadian pastor

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This file photo taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 16, 2015 shows Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim (C) at the North Korean Supreme Court in PyongyangImage source, AFP
Image caption,
A Canadian government delegation arrived in Pyongyang to discuss Hyeon Soo Lim on Tuesday

A Canadian pastor who was sentenced to a life term of hard labour in North Korea for "crimes against the state" in December 2015 has been released, the country's official news agency says.

A statement confirmed 62-year-old Hyeon Soo Lim had been released on humanitarian grounds.

On Tuesday the Canadian government confirmed a delegation had arrived in Pyongyang to discuss Mr Lim's case.

The Toronto-based pastor, who is of South Korean origin, publically confessed to plotting to overthrow the North Korean government and set up a "religious state".

Media caption,

Hyeon Soo Lim was sentenced after a 90-minute trial at the North Korean Supreme Court

Mr Lim's family said he had travelled to Pyongyang in January 2015 to build a nursing home, nursery and orphanage.

His church confirmed he had visited the country more than 100 times since 1997.

Because religious activity is banned in North Korea, the authorities periodically detain foreigners for religious or missionary activity, and similar cases have seen staged public confessions from prisoners.

In an interview with CNN in January 2016, Mr Lim described his hard labour sentence. He said he had to dig holes eight hours a day in a camp where he did not see any other detainees.

In June US student Otto Warmbier died six days after being sent home on humanitarian grounds from North Korean imprisonment.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
US student Otto Warmbier was arrested in North Korea for allegedly taking a propaganda poster

Mr Warmbier returned to the US in a coma with serious brain damage.

Following the American's death, Mr Lim's family increased their calls for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to "change strategy" to help secure his release.