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US man held in NKorea rallied against Pyongyang

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 14:32

Seoul: A Boston man detained in North Korea is a quiet, devout Christian so concerned about an American missionary held in Pyongyang that he was moved to tears at rallies protesting the communist regime, fellow activists said Wednesday.

North Korea announced Monday that Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, would stand trial after entering the country illegally. The trial date was not mentioned in a brief report in state media.

It was not immediately clear why Gomes, who taught English in South Korea, went to the communist country. However, activists in Seoul said he was an acquaintance of Robert Park, a fellow Christian from Arizona who crossed into North Korea on Christmas in a bold bid to draw attention to the country`s human rights situation.

In the days after Park`s arrest, Gomes attended at least two rallies in Seoul calling for Park`s release, a Seoul-based activist said.

"I saw him weeping," Jo Sung-rae of Pax Koreana said.

Park, 26, of Tucson, was released last month after more than 40 days in North Korean custody, with the North`s state media saying he offered an apology for his transgressions.

Jo said Gomes, who contacted him in November about working with his rights group, met Park in Seoul last summer. "I felt he may have gone to North Korea after being inspired by Robert Park," Jo said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Tuesday the United States had not been formally notified about charges against the American.
Crowley said Swedish diplomats have had four meetings with him recently. Sweden represents the U.S. in consular issues since Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations.

Gomes is the fourth American detained in North Korea, one of the world`s most closed countries, in the past year.
In addition to Park, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested a year ago near the Chinese border and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for illegal entry and engaging in "hostile acts." They were freed in August after former President Bill Clinton made a high-profile humanitarian visit to Pyongyang to negotiate their release.

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 14:32

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