Dec. 18 (UPI) -- North Korean defectors in the South claimed Wednesday North Korean fishermen deported in November have received death sentences.
Lee Ae-ran of the Center for Liberty and Reunification and Kim Heung-kwang of NK Intellectuals' Solidarity said at a press conference held by the opposition Liberty Korea Party the North Koreans, who were sent back after being accused of a massacre on their ship, could be executed, News 1 reported.
Lee said Wednesday the two men who were deported were 21 and 23 years old.
"They were both forcibly repatriated," Lee said.
The defector also said "sources in North Korea" have confirmed there "were no murders," and that the two men were victims who were falsely accused of homicide.
"There can be no murders without dead people," the defector said.
In November, South Korea defended its decision to deport the two North Koreans, who were charged with killing 16 of their crewmembers, including the boat's captain. The suspects had expressed a desire for resettlement in the South. Seoul said the criminal status of the two men excludes them from protection under South Korea's North Korean Defectors Act.
Lee told reporters there is also evidence the North Koreans were seeking asylum.
"The boat was not for the purpose of squid fishing, but was prepared for defections," Lee said.
The activist added there were 16 people on board the boat who were fleeing but North Korean authorities apprehended the boat. Three people managed to escape after the arrest, one person was later detained and the remaining two refugees managed to make it to the South, Lee said.
Lee is claiming Seoul deported the men on trumped-up charges of murder at a time when the government is taking steps to minimize conflict with Pyongyang.
President Moon Jae-in met with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven on Wednesday to thank Sweden for "being a reliable partner for peace on the Korean Peninsula," according to Newsis.
Sweden hosted North Korea and the United States for working-level talks in October.