An Army private who fled to North Korea has been arrested and is being held for desertion by the US military.
Pvt. Travis King, 23, returned to the United States earlier this month.
King is facing eight charges, including desertion and possessing sexual images of a child. Officials confirmed his arrest to the Associated Press.
King’s mother, Claudine Gates, said in a statement obtained by the outlet that her son should be “afforded the presumption of innocence.” She said, “A mother knows her son, and I believe something happened to mine while he was deployed.”
According to a report from the Associated Press in September, “King, who had served in South Korea, ran into the North while on a civilian tour of a border village on July 18, becoming the first American confirmed to be detained in the isolated country in nearly five years. At the time, he was supposed to be heading to Fort Bliss, Texas, following his release from prison in South Korea on an assault conviction.”
“He was declared AWOL from the Army, but not considered a deserter,” the report continued. “Punishment for going AWOL can vary, and it depends in part on whether the service member voluntarily returned or was apprehended. King’s two-month absence and ultimate handover by the North Koreans makes that more complicated.”
After two months of being held in North Korea, Pyongyang announced that he would be sent back, and he was flown to an Air Force base in Texas.
“At the time, officials said they did not know exactly why North Korea decided to let King go, but suspected Pyongyang determined that as a low-ranking serviceman he had no real value in terms of either leverage or information,” the AP report says.
Deserters can face imprisonment of up to three years — or the death penalty in times of war.