US man 'attempts suicide' in North Korean jail

Aijalon Mahli Gomes Aijalon Mahli Gomes is said to have crossed into North Korea in January

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The North Korean government says that an American detained for illegal entry has tried to commit suicide.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, 30, had acted out of frustration and guilt at his wrong-doing, state media reported.

Mr Gomes was sentenced to eight years' hard labour in April after being found guilty of illegally entering the country in January.

He had been working as an English teacher in South Korea, and reportedly crossed the border from China.

"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 KCNA news agency said.

"He is now given first-aid treatment at a hospital."

Devout

Swedish diplomats, acting for the US which has no diplomatic presence in North Korea, have been made aware of Mr Gomes' condition, KCNA said.

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KCNA's report comes hours before the United Nations is expected to pass a resolution condemning the explosion of a South Korean warship, the Cheonan, in March this year which left 46 sailors dead.

An international investigation has accused North Korea of attacking the ship with a torpedo. Pyongyang denies any role in the sinking.

North Korea said two weeks ago that there was no question of releasing Mr Gomes; there remained only the issue of "what harsher punishment" would be given to him.

Mr Gomes is described by colleagues as a devout Christian.

It is not clear why he crossed into the North, but it came one month after US missionary Robert Park walked over a frozen border river into North Korea on Christmas Day.

Mr Park, who said he wanted to highlight human rights issues in North Korea, was released in February without standing trial.

Last year two US journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were also arrested by North Korea on the border with China.

They were sentenced to 12 years' hard labour but freed in August after four months in captivity, as part of a diplomatic mission spearheaded by former US President Bill Clinton.

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