08/25/2010, 00.00
NORTH KOREA - USA

Jimmy Carter in Pyongyang to seek release of US prisoner

Mahle Aijalon Gomes is accused of having entered the country illegally and was sentenced to a fine of 700 thousand dollars and 8 years in a labour camp. Last month he attempted suicide. North Korea had invited Carter also to reduce tensions with the South and the U.S..

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, is travelling to Pyongyang on a private mission to seek the release of an American prisoner. According to the South Korean agency Yonhap, Carter and his wife are travelling on a private jet and not a U.S. military plane.

The humanitarian action of the former president is an attempt to free Aijalon Mahle Gomes, 30, sentenced by the Pyongyang regime to eight years' hard labour and fined 700 thousand dollars for entering the country illegally. According to media reports of the North, last month Gomes attempted suicide in despair.

Last year, former President Bill Clinton made a similar trip, managing to free two U.S. journalists arrested for illegal entry.

Carter's visit comes at a time of high tensions between North and South, after the sinking of the Cheonan warship by the North, leading to tougher sanctions on Pyongyang.

According to diplomatic sources, North Korea facilitated the arrival of Carter to improve relations and reopen the six-party nuclear disarmament talks. But for the resumption of talks Washington and Seoul are demanding that Pyongyang admits its responsibility in the sinking of the Cheonan.  

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