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US ex-president Carter gets American hostage released from North Korea

August 27, 2010 10:53 IST
Former United States President Jimmy Carter on Friday flew out of North Korea after securing the release of American national Aijalon Gomes, who was jailed in the Communist state for illegal entry into the country.

'Former President Jimmy Carter announced that he is leaving Pyongyang, North Korea, this morning accompanied by Aijalon Mahli Gomes,' said a statement issued by the Carter Center late Thursday night.

Gomes was imprisoned in January this year and later sentenced to eight years of hard labour, with a fine of about USD 600,000 for the crime of illegal entry into North Korea.

'At the request of President Carter and for humanitarian purposes, Gomes was granted amnesty by the chairman of the National Defence Commission Kim Jong-Il,' the statement said.

'This was a private mission of the Carter Center, and was neither requested nor sponsored by the US government,' it added.

The release of the American national was immediately welcomed by the US state department.

"We welcome the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes and are relieved that he will soon be safely reunited with his family," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in a statement.

"We appreciate former President Carter's humanitarian effort and welcome North Korea's decision to grant Gomes special amnesty and allow him to return to the United States," Crowley said.

The state department also expressed gratitude to the Swedish government for their tireless consular services and efforts on the US government's behalf in their role as its Protecting Power in North Korea.

Crowley also said Carter's trip was a private, humanitarian, and unofficial mission solely for the purpose of bringing Gomes home and reuniting him with his family.

"Based on our assessment that Gomes's health was at serious risk if he did not receive immediate care in the United States, the US government concurred with former president Carter's decision to accept the North Korean proposal" of amnesty, he added.

Noting that the US and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations, Crowley said the case of Gomes illustrates travel to North Korea is not routine or risk-free.             "We are issuing a travel warning for American citizens against travel to North Korea," he said.

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