BOSTON (Reuters) - Former President Jimmy Carter and an American who had been jailed after crossing into North Korea landed at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Friday after the reclusive state released the prisoner.
Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was raised in Boston and had been working as an English teacher in South Korea, was arrested in January and sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegally entering North Korea from China.
Gomes, 31, was greeted by about 19 members of his family as he arrived at the airport. Neither he nor the 85-year-old former president, who gave reporters the thumbs-up sign, spoke to journalists. Gomes, who wore a striped polo shirt and looked subdued, was reported to be in ill health and in need of medical treatment.
In a statement Gomes’ family described his eight months in captivity as “a long, dark and difficult period,” and thanked Carter for his trip.
Pyongyang authorities invited Carter to visit Gomes a month after what North Korean state media described as a suicide attempt. Carter’s trip was a personal and humanitarian voyage, and he did not go as an official representative of the U.S. government, the State Department said.
A year ago, another former American president, Bill Clinton, made a similar trip to North Korea to secure the release of two jailed U.S. journalists, who also were charged with illegally entering the country.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Stacey Joyce