|Jimmy Carter shakes hands with Aijalon Mahli Gomes|
Aijalon Mahli Gomes arrived home Friday afternoon with the man who secured his freedom, former President Jimmy Carter. Gomes, who has been living in South Korea for about nine years, will at last be home for Christmas.
Gomes' family rushed toward the steps of the private plane, wiping tears from their eyes and hugging the man imprisoned in communist North Korea since January.
The U.S. State Department and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Gomes' release. Ban commended Carter and said he "appreciates the decision" of North Korea to release Gomes on "humanitarian considerations."
The Korean Central News Agency reported, "Jimmy Carter made an apology to Kim Yong Nam for American Gomes' illegal entry into [North Korea] and gave him the assurance that such case will never happen again."
Gomes didn't have only Carter as an advocate. Florida-based attorney Michael Cavendish, who doesn't even know Gomes, started a letter-writing campaign when he learned about Gomes' sentencing in April. Some of his letters criticized the U.S. government, which he argued initially did not do enough to advocate for Gomes.