UPDATE at 8:07 a.m.: Family members of Jeffrey Fowle emotionally greeted the West Carrollton man Wednesday morning after he spent more than five months as a detainee in North Korea.
Fowle’s three children and his wife, Tatyana, rushed to embrace him as quickly bounded down the steps of a blue and white Air Force C-40 jet that reportedly carried him from North Korea to Guam and Hawaii before landing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base at 6:42 a.m.
The 56-year-old former Moraine city worker made no comments to the press.
Fowle’s children were not told their father was coming home before they greeted him, said Col. John M. Devillier, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing, who was part of an entourage that met Fowle on the tarmac.
“I got teary eyed,” Devillier said. “The reaction from his children was priceless. They hadn’t seen their dad in some time and the expectation would be that they would get teary-eyed and they did and I did too. It’s great to welcome him home.”
The State Department had requested the Air Force assist to transport Fowle back to the Miami Valley.
The Air Force jet emblazoned with the United States of America on its side and the American flag on its tail departed the base about 20 minutes after Fowle got off the plane.
He had been held by North Korean authorities since May after he allegedly left a bible in a public place. North Korean authorities consider Christian evangelism a crime.
The Beavercreek High School graduate is a former equipment operator for the city of Moraine. In September, the city of Moraine terminated his employment after his leave from his job was exhausted.
Fowle was one of three U.S. citizens detained in the Democratic Republic of Korea, a communist nation largely isolated from the rest of the world.
UPDATE at 7:10 a.m.: WHIO's Mike Campbell reports a base official said the children did not know their dad was coming home. The children didn't know exactly why they were at the base, according to the official.
UPDATE at 6:45 a.m.: The airplane carrying Jeffrey Fowle has safely landed at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
The 56-year-old Fowle stepped off the plane carrying two pieces of luggage and was greeted with warm hugs from his children, wife and other family.
UPDATE @ 10:30 p.m.:
Jeffrey Fowle is expected to be flown into Wright-Patterson Air Force Base early Wednesday morning, a public affairs spokeswoman with the 88th Air Base Wing said.
The flight is to land at the base sometime between 5:40 and 6:40 a.m., the spokeswoman, Marie Vanover, said. Fowle is not expected to offer any statements upon his arrival.
A West Carrollton man has been released today from North Korea, where he has been held captive for more than seven months.
Jeffrey Fowle, 56, has been released and is in Guam, said State Department Deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, declining to say when he will be home.
"We want to give him some time to get home and be reunited with his family," Harf said.
An airplane from the Defense Department picked up Fowle today before flying to Guam, Harf said. He was “evaluated by doctors and was in good health,” she said.
Fowle, a Beavercreek High School graduate and former Moraine city worker, was detained by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in May, after being accused of leaving a bible at his hotel.
Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29 and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at a nightclub. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea. Fowle was an equipment operator for the city of Moraine.
The city terminated his employment in September because of his detention and because he had exhausted his leave. Union officials and the Fowle family attorney said they understood Moraine’s decision.
Moraine City Manager Dave Hicks said today, “We wish Jeff well. We’re excited to have him return.”
Fowle had been awaiting trial following the September conviction of Matthew Miller, one of two other U.S. detainees in North Korea.
“I’m excited about that. I’m really excited for the family,” said former U.S. Rep. Tony Hall, who had worked for months to help obtain Fowle’s freedom. “This is great news. I’m really excited from the family.”
“We can confirm that Jeffrey Fowle has been allowed to depart the DPRK and is on his way home to re-join his family. We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him,” a State Department release said.
Although the State Department said, “we welcome the DPRK’s decision to release him,” it expressed concern for the other U.S. detainees.
“While this is a positive decision by the DPRK, we remain focused on the continued detention of Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller and again call on the DPRK to immediately release them. The U.S. Government will continue to work actively on their cases,” according to a statement released today.
As a condition of his release, "there was a time issue that the Defense Department was able to provide transportation in the time frame specified by the DPRK as a condition of his release,” Harf said. “The DPRK authorities asked the U.S. government to transport him outside of the country."
She declined to get into the details of the timeline or how Fowle’s release was negotiated.
"I think this is a positive step, but that does not change the fact that we are concerned about Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller," Harf said.
Congressmen Rob Portman and Mike Turner of Ohio welcomed Fowle home and thanked the State Department and Hall for their efforts to free him.
“I'm pleased that Jeffrey Fowle is returning home to his family and can close the chapter on a horrific ordeal in North Korea," said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in a statement. North Korea is a country with egregious human rights violations and it's important that the U.S. continue to stand for the rights of all people, including religious freedoms, at home and abroad. My prayers are with Mr. Fowle and his family as he makes the transition home.”
Fowle’s wife, Tatyana, is a native of Russia who had reached out to the Russian government for potential help. She, her mother, and the couple’s three children — Alex, 13, Chris, 11, and Stephanie, 9 — live in West Carrollton.
Harf also thanked Sweden for its “tireless efforts” by its embassy in Pyongyang. She provided no other details about the Swedish government’s involvement but said the North Koreans had asked that the U.S. provide transportation for Fowle’s departure.
Washington has repeatedly tried to send a high-level representative to North Korea to seek release of the three men. Pyongyang had refused as recently as last month, according to Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues.
The three Americans entered North Korea separately. In interviews last month with the AP, all three men said they believe the only solution to their situation is for a U.S. representative to come to North Korea to make a direct appeal.
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