04/07/2010, 00.00
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Pyongyang sentence American Christian to eight years hard labour

Mahle Aijalon Gomes, a 30 year old U.S. citizen, was found guilty of unlawful entry and hostility towards the regime. In addition to forced labour, he received a fine of approximately 650 thousand euros. He is the fourth American arrested in North Korea since 2009.

Pyongyang (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A North Korean Court has sentenced Aijalon Mahle Gomes, a U.S. citizen originally from Boston, to eight years forced labour for having entered the country illegally. This is confirmed by the Korean Central News Agency, the regime’s official press agency.  

The sentence, reported by the KCNA in a dispatch of four paragraphs, "was imposed for illegal entry into the communist state and hostility shown towards the government." According to the judges, in addition, the American citizen, " admitted all his responsibilities." At the trial, which took place yesterday, was attended by unidentified officials from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which often represents U.S. interests in the absence of direct diplomatic relationships.  

Last month, state media released the identity of the American citizen arrested on January 25: Aijalon Mahle Gomes, a 30 year old Christian, who is a former English teacher with deep religious convictions. Until last January, he lived and worked in South Korea.  On Jan. 25 he entered the communist country. The authorities have also imposed a fine of 70 million new Won, approximately 650 thousand Euros.  


Analysts believe Gomes will also be freed soon. Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, says: "The North will not keep him for eight years. They will suspend the sentence and expel him, as a gesture of goodwill towards the United States. "  

Gomes is the fourth U.S. citizen accused of having illegally entered North Korea in 2009. In February, Pyongyang released Robert Park, who entered the country from China after crossing a frozen river. Last year, in addition, two American journalists - Laura Ling and Euna Lee - were arrested for the same reason and sentenced to 12 years hard labour. After four months in prison, they were freed and delivered to a diplomatic mission led by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
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