CINCINNATI – News that an Ohio man had been freed from North Korea after being detained there for nearly six months triggered the same response in his wife and former co-workers: Delight.
Jeffrey Fowle's wife cried out with joy, the family's attorney said Tuesday. And a manager in the suburban Dayton city where Fowle formerly worked said they were "delighted to hear the news."
The State Department announced Tuesday that the 56-year-old Miamisburg resident was released nearly a half-year after he was taken into custody after leaving a Bible at a nightclub. He had been awaiting trial.
Attorney Timothy Tepe said Fowle was able to later call his wife himself on his way home. He was expected to arrive in Ohio on Wednesday, his former employer said in a statement.
Two other Americans who have been convicted of crimes in North Korea are still being held.
There was no immediate explanation for the release of Fowle, who was quickly whisked to the U.S. territory of Guam before heading back to his wife and three children.
Relations between Washington and Pyongyang, never warm, are at a particularly low point, and the U.S. has sought unsuccessfully for months to send a high-level representative to North Korea to negotiate acquittals for all three men.
Moraine, the city where Fowle worked as a streets department employee, terminated his employment last month.
"We're delighted to hear the news and look forward to him returning to the community and his family," David Hicks, Moraine's city manager, said Tuesday. He didn't discuss Fowle's employment.
The Dayton Daily News reported last month that the city said Fowle's termination included $70,000 in severance pay and the ability to be reinstated.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was seen by doctors and appeared to be in good medical health. She declined to give more details about his release except to thank the government of Sweden, which has an embassy in Pyongyang, for its "tireless efforts."
Harf would not say whether any American officials had intervened directly with the North Koreans.
Fowle was flown out of North Korea on a U.S. military jet which was spotted at Pyongyang's international airport Tuesday by two Associated Press journalists.
There was no immediate comment from the government of North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea and strongly warns American citizens against traveling to the country.
Fowle arrived there on April 29 and was arrested in May for leaving a Bible at the nightclub. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea.
Jakes reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Eric Talmadge and Maye-E Wong in Pyongyang, North Korea, and Deb Riechmann and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.