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Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday urged North Korea to pardon and release on humanitarian grounds an American student serving a sentence of 15 years of hard labour.

State Department spokesman John Kirby called for Otto Warmbier's pardon and release during a daily news briefing. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in March for trying to steal an item with a propaganda slogan, according to North Korean media.

(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Writing by Mohammad Zargham; Editing by Eric Beech)

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