Seoul: North Korea said it allowed
imprisoned American Aijalon Mahli Gomes to phone his family
on Friday for the first time since he was sentenced to eight
years` hard labour earlier this month.
The 30-year-old from Boston was jailed on April 6 and
fined about USD 700,000 for illegal border crossing.
"US citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes ... asked for a phone
contact with his family for his health and other reasons," the
North`s official Korean Central News Agency said.
"The relevant organ of the Democratic People`s
Republic of Korea, taking his request into consideration,
permitted him to do so on Friday."
Gomes, a former English teacher in South Korea and
reportedly a devout Christian, was arrested in January -- the
fourth US citizen in less than a year to be detained for
KCNA said he had "admitted all the facts" at his
The United States has requested an amnesty for him,
working through the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang, which
represents US interests in the country.
The hardline communist North pardoned and deported
three previous offenders. Analysts have said Gomes may also be
freed after Pyongyang uses him as a bargaining chip in its
nuclear standoff with Washington.
The United States and other members of a six-nation
nuclear disarmament forum are pressing the North to return to
talks which it quit a year ago.
Pyongyang wants Washington`s commitment to discuss a
formal peace treaty before it returns to the six-party talks.
It says it developed its nuclear arsenal in response to US
threats and needs a peace pact before it can consider giving
up the weapons.
The United States says other matters should wait till
after the North rejoins the talks and shows it is serious