International

Aijalon Gomes, Freed By N. Korea, In U.S. With Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter Returns American Held In North Korea To U.S.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter watches Aijalon Mahli Gomes deplane on August 27, 2010 at Boston's Logan International Airport. Darren McCollester/Getty Images North America hide caption

itoggle caption Darren McCollester/Getty Images North America

U.S. citizen Aijalon Gomes who had been imprisoned in North Korea for seven months for illegally entering the reclusive communist state, returned to his native Boston Friday, accompanied by former President Jimmy Carter who won his release.

Gomes, appearing thin, tired but relieved, arrived in the U.S. by private jet and was greeted by family members, some of whom held small American flags.

As family members huddled around and took turns hugging him, Carter stood off to the side and watched, a smile on his face.

Gomes' return marked the end of an odyssey that began when the man, a teacher of English in South Korea, crossed into the north from China for reasons that remain unclear.

After his capture, he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor by North Korean officials.

According to the north's official news agency, Gomes recently attempted suicide and was provided medical treatment.

An excerpt from an Associated Press story:

"I'm just joyful and grateful that my son is home, and thank President Jimmy Carter for making sure that he was home safely," Gomes' mother, Jacqueline McCarthy, said as she left her home for the airport. "I thank God, I thank God, for everything everyone has done for us."

The family also thanked the North Korean government "for caring for Aijalon during his darkest days, then agreeing to release him on humanitarian grounds."

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