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Carter secures release of US hostage from North Korea

Former President rescues Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who had been detained since January.

Jimmy Carter (left) shakes the hand of Aijalaon Mahli Gomes at Pyongyang Airport before they left for Boston yesterday.

FORMER AMERICAN PRESIDENT Jimmy Carter is expected to arrive back in Boston this afternoon after a three-day trip to North Korea – bringing with him an American who had been detained by the communist country since January.

Aijalaon Mahli Gomes, 30, had been arrested on January 25 after crossing into North Korea from China. He was sentenced to imprisonment at a labour camp and fined around $700,000 for illegally entering the country.

The North Korean state-run news agency described the release – which came after Carter’s visit prompted a pardon of Gomes’ apparent crime – as a “manifestation of [its] humanitarianism and peace-loving policy”.

It added that Carter had “made an apology to Kim Yong-Nam [the president of the national assembly] for American Gomes’ illegal entry into the DPRK and gave him the assurance that such case will never happen again on behalf of the government and the ex-president of the US.

“He asked Kim Yong Nam to convey to General Secretary Kim Jong-Il a message courteously requesting him to grant special pardon to Gomes to leniently forgive him and let him go home.”

A spokesman for the US Department of State said that America appreciated “former President Carter’s humanitarian effort and welcome[d] North Korea’s decision to grant Mr Gomes special amnesty.”

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Gomes had lived in Seuoul before his detention, and was the fourth American to have been arrested for sneaking into the country in the last two years.

Bill Clinton had taken a similar mission last year to secure the release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Time magazine suggested that Carter had been deployed on the mission as he did not hold any position in the Obama administration.

Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for having been the only American commander-in-chief not to have ordered troops into battle.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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