US prisoner in North Korea 'attempts suicide'

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

File:North korean leader.jpg
The North Korean government has reported that an American prisoner, Aijali Mahli Gomes, has "attempted suicide".
Image: Alexandermacpherson.

According to the North Korean government, a US citizen, Aijali Mahli Gomes, has attempted suicide in a North Korean prison. In April, Gomes was sentenced to eight years of hard labour for illegally attempting to cross into the reclusive country in January, though his reasons for doing so remain unclear.

In addition to the prison term, the man was also fined the equivalent of US$700,000 for a "hostile act".

"Driven by his strong guilty conscience, disappointment and despair at the US government that has not taken any measure for his freedom, he attempted to commit suicide," the North's Korean Central News Agency reported. This report did not specify where and how Gomes attempted suicide, or his state at present, only adding that Gomes "is now [being] given first-aid treatment at a hospital", and that Swedish diplomats at their Pyongyang embassy who handle diplomatic affairs between the US and North Korea have been made aware of Gomes' condition.

Gomes was an English teacher in South Korea before trying to cross into the North. Gomes had also attended rallies that supported human rights activist Robert Park, who crossed into the North to protest the Communist country's poor human rights record. Park was later expelled from North Korea 40 days after he entered.

North Korea's international relations remain tense after the sinking of the South Korean warship Cheonan, and this report was issued just hours before the United Nations Security Council was expected to pass a resolution censuring the explosion of the Cheonan. North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the warship and has declared that any sanctions from the international community will lead to war.

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