Monday, August 16, 2010

American officials allowed to see Aijalon Gomes in Pyongyang

For the first time U.S. officials have been allowed to see 30-year-old Aijalon Gomes, who has been jailed in North Korea on charges of illegally entering the country.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Monday: "We did have a State Department team visit Pyongyang last week [Aug. 9-11]." Crowley said. "It was a four-person team: one consular official, two doctors and a translator. We requested permission to visit Mr. Gomes. That permission from the North Korean government was granted."
While the team was in Pyongyang on, "We requested permission to bring Mr. Gomes home," Crowley said. "Unfortunately, he remains in North Korea."
The spokesman added that the United States is continuing to seek his immediate release because of health worries. Gomes, who had worked as an English teacher in Seoul, was arrested in January and has been sentenced to eight years of hard labor and fined about $700,000.  North Korea said last month that Gomes was hospitalized after an attempted suicide, and some reports said he was on a hunger strike. The U.S. team visited Gomes "in a hospital," the spokesman said.
North Korea in June threatened to increase punishment for Gomes under a wartime law, citing what it called a U.S. campaign to condemn North Korea for the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan. 

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