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Australian student released from North Korea detention, prime minister says

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament that Alek Sigley had left North Korea and was "safe and well."
Image: Australian student Alex Sigley smiles as he arrives at the airport in Beijing
Australian student Alex Sigley smiles as he arrives at the airport in Beijing on Thursday, July 4, 2019. The Australian student who vanished in North Korea more than a week ago arrived in Beijing on Thursday morningEmily Wang / AP

CANBERRA, Australia — An Australian student was released Thursday after a week in detention in North Korea and was "safe and well" in a third country, Australia's prime minister said.

Swedish diplomats had raised Alek Sigley, 29, with North Korean authorities in Pyongyang where Australia does not have an embassy.

"I'm pleased to announce that Mr. Alex Sigley has been today released from detention in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," Scott Morrison told Parliament to cheers from lawmakers.

"Alex is safe and well. Swedish authorities advised the Australian government that they met with senior officials from the DPRK yesterday and raised the issue of Alex's disappearance on Australia's behalf," he added, using the official name for North Korea.

This undated handout photo received on June 27, 2019 courtesy of the Sigley family shows Australian student Alek Sigley, one of only a handful of Western students who studies Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University, at an unknown location.Courtesy of the Sigley family / AFP - Getty Images

Morrison said that North Korean authorities released Sigley early Thursday, "and he has now safely left the country and I can confirm he has arrived safely."

Morrison thanked Swedish authorities for "their invaluable assistance in securing Alek's prompt release."

"This outcome demonstrates the value of discrete behind-the-scenes work of officials in resolving complex and sensitive consular cases in close partnership with other governments," Morrison said.

"I'm sure we all could not be more pleased that we not only know where Alek is, that we know he is safe,"

The Pyongyang university student lost contact with family and friends in Japan and Australia on Tuesday last week.

Morrison's announcement was the first confirmation that he had been detained.