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American jailed over 'Bible left in nightclub bathroom' freed from North Korea

However, two Americans remain in hard labour camps in the country.

Image: AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File

AN AMERICAN HELD hostage for six months in North Korea arrived home today after his surprise release, stressing he had been well treated and voicing support for two other United States citizens still in detention.

Jeffrey Fowle was reunited with his wife and three children in his home state of Ohio, after Pyongyang allowed a Pentagon plane to fly into the North Korean capital on Tuesday to collect him.

Fowle entered the North in April and was detained after allegedly leaving a Bible in the bathroom of a nightclub in the northern port of Chongjin.

North Korea heavily restricts religious activity in the isolated country.

“Jeff would like you to know that he was treated well by the government of the DPRK (North Korea) and he’s currently in good health,” his family said in a statement, read by their spokesman.

They thanked the State Department, the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang that acted as a go-between to secure his release, former US ambassador Tony Hall and everyone who offered “love, support and prayer” during Fowle’s detention.

North Korea said the “criminal” Fowle was freed as a “special measure” on the orders of leader Kim Jong-Un following “repeated requests” from US President Barack Obama.

US North Korea What appears to be a United States Air Force passenger jet, right, is parked on the tarmac of Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday. Source: AP/Press Association Images

In a brief report, the official KCNA news agency said Fowle, 56, had been handed over to the US authorities in accordance with relevant legal procedures.

But US Secretary of State John Kerry insisted Washington, which has no diplomatic ties with the North, had made no concessions to Pyongyang to win his release.

“No, there was no quid pro quo,” Kerry said during a visit to Berlin, adding the United States was “very concerned about the remaining American citizens who are in North Korea.”

Fowle was smiling broadly as he stepped off his plane carrying his luggage after arriving to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, US television showed.

But his family said Fowle’s thoughts were still with Americans Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, who remain in North Korea having been sentenced to work in hard labour camps.

Tthe family said:

Although we are overjoyed by Jeff’s return home, we are mindful that Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller continue to be detained.

They added that they “understand the disappointment their families are experiencing today that their loved ones did not return home with Jeff.”

His family said he now needed time to adjust to being home.

North Korea US Detainees Analysis American Jeffrey Fowle is interviewed by journalists at the Koryo National Club in Pyongyang yesterday. Source: AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon

Washington has condemned Pyongyang over the detentions, saying the men were being held as political hostages to extract diplomatic concessions.

The 24-year-old Miller was also arrested in April after he allegedly ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum. Miller was sentenced to six years’ hard labour.

Korean-American Bae, 42, was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: What is it like to escape life in North Korea? This incredible speech will tell you >

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