Jan. 14 (UPI) -- A crew of South Korean fishermen abducted to the North more than 50 years ago have been cleared of North Korea espionage charges.
Nam Jung-gil, one of the six fishermen captured then released by North Korea in 1968, said he is "immeasurably happy" following the verdict, South Korean news service News 1 reported Tuesday.
Nam may be one of the few surviving members of the fishing vessel Gongjin. Park Nam-ju, the boat's chief engineer at the time of the incident, died two years after being released from South Korean custody following the crew's repatriation from the North.
The abduction of South Korean citizens took place on May 24, 1968 near Yeonpyeong Island, according to Yonhap on Tuesday.
The Gongjin crossed a maritime border into the North while fishing. The crew was apprehended and taken to North Korea, where they were detained for five months, according to the report.
The crew, including Nam, were repatriated to the South in October 1968, but were arrested upon their return home and subjected to torture in South Korean prison for suspected espionage.
Punishment included water torture, beatings and sleep deprivation. In 1969, the crew's case went to a South Korean court. Each defendant was sentenced to one to three years in prison.
According to Gwangju High Court on Tuesday, the men were found not guilty of previous crimes, including the country's anti-communist law of the time.
The court also suggested the crew were subjected to forced confessions of espionage in 1969.
"Even if the defendants have confessed [to spying] in the past, it is hard to believe the confessions are reliable," the Gwangju court verdict read, citing "illegal detention and torture" at the hands of South Korean authorities at the time.
The defendants were previously accused of praising North Korea upon their return.
Nam developed brain hemorrhage after being tortured in prison, according to News 1.