Aijalon Mahli Gomes
By Kim Young-jin
An American man detained in North Korea has been sentenced by the reclusive country to eight years of hard labor for illegal entry and "hostile acts," the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Wednesday.
The man, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, has also been fined approximately $700,000. The KCNA reported that he has, "admitted to all the charges," but did not elaborate.
The trial, which took place Tuesday, was attended by diplomats from the Swedish embassy, which represents U.S. interests in the North as the United States does not maintain a diplomatic presence there.
Pyongyang said in late January that the American was being held for "trespassing" into the country via its border with China and was undergoing questioning. In early February, the North released another American, missionary Robert Park, who was detained after crossing into its territory in an effort to draw international attention to its human rights abuses.
Two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were pardoned and released by the North in August after being sentenced to hard labor for illegal entry while reporting for an independent U.S. cable television network.
They were released soon after former U.S. President Bill Clinton arrived in Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
Gomes, according to friends, is a devout Christian who was teaching in South Korea. He may also have been inspired to make his Jan. 25 crossing by Park's example.