An American student has been sentenced to 15 years hard labour after admitting stealing propaganda material in North Korea.

Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate student, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial at the North’s Supreme Court. He was charged with subversion.

Warmbier was arrested in early January as he tried to leave the country after visiting as a tourist with a New Year’s tour group.

In a statement made before his trial, the 21-year-old told reporters in Pyongyang he wanted the banner “as a trophy” for the mother of a friend.

Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, bows during a new conference in Pyongyang, North Korea

Warmbier bows during a news conference in Pyongyang

He was seen emotionally begging for forgiveness during the news conference.

He said he had made “the worst mistake of my life” by stealing a propaganda banner from the staff-only area of a Pyongyang hotel.

The student was allegedly being offered a car worth $10,000 (£7,200) if he successfully returned to the US with the political slogan.

He attempted to board a flight from Pyongyang to Beijing on 2 January, he was detained by two airport officials.