American to be tried in the North

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American to be tried in the North

North Korea said Monday that it will put an American on trial for entering the communist country illegally.

State-run media identified the man as Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, of Boston, and said “his crime has been confirmed.” The brief dispatch from the Korean Central News Agency did not say when he would stand trial.

A spokeswoman for the man’s family in Boston, Thaleia Schlesinger, said that Gomes had been teaching English in South Korea for about two years and that it was unclear why he would have gone to North Korea.

She said his family was going through a difficult time and is “praying for his speedy return home.”

North Korea had announced two months ago that an American was detained Jan. 25 for trespassing after crossing into the country from China and was under investigation, but had not identified him at the time.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States wants to make sure Gomes is returned as soon as possible.

“We are concerned about his health and welfare. We are obviously concerned about whatever legal process he might face,” Crowley said. “We have great concern about the lack of transparency.”

Gomes is the fourth American reported detained in communist North Korea on charges of illegal entry in the past year.

Authorities at Sinbong Elementary School in Pocheon, north of Seoul, said he taught English there from April 2008 to March last year.

“All the memories we have of Gomes .?.?. are only good. Everyone here liked him,” school headmaster Cho Kyoo-Sig told AFP. “I remember him as a very mellow and calm person. He was very kind to everybody and all the children liked him so much.”

Gomes left the school, saying he would find a better-paying job in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi.

“If he wants to return to this school, he would always be welcome. It’s hard to find a native English teacher as good as Gomes,” Cho said.


AP, AFP

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