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Report: U.S. citizen in North Korean prison attempted suicide

By the CNN Wire Staff
Human rights activist Aijalon Mahli Gomes was seen on January 12, 2010, taking part in a rally at Imjingak peace park near the closely-guarded South-North border in Paju.
Human rights activist Aijalon Mahli Gomes was seen on January 12, 2010, taking part in a rally at Imjingak peace park near the closely-guarded South-North border in Paju.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • North Korea sentenced man to 8 years of hard labor
  • Gomes detained January 25 for trespassing into North Korea from China
  • Sweden, which represents U.S. interests, reportedly looked into the case
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(CNN) -- An American serving an eight-year sentence in North Korea recently attempted suicide, North Korea's official news agency said Friday.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that Aijalon Mahli Gomes attempted to take his own life "driven by his strong guilty conscience, disappointment and despair at the U.S. government that has not taken any measure for his freedom."

The news agency said the Swedish Embassy, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea, had "acquainted itself with the condition of the patient at the hospital."

The Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it does not comment on individual cases and refused to confirm or deny its involvement.

Gomes was arrested after crossing the North Korea-China border on January 25. In April, he was sentenced to eight years of hard labor for what state media described as "a hostile act committed against the Korean nation."

The American was, according to South Korean press reports, an English language teacher with strong Christian convictions, who had taken part in anti-North Korean protests in the South.

Last month, KCNA reported that North Korea may consider a tougher punishment for Gomes if the United States "persists in its hostile approach" toward Pyongyang.

Two American journalists -- Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had crossed the border last March and were arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor -- were released in August after an intervention by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Robert Park, a Korean-American Christian evangelist who was arrested after entering the country on Christmas Day, had given a media interview in which he stated his aim to force change in North Korean human rights conditions.

He was released in February after telling North Korean state media that he had been wrong about human rights conditions there.

CNN's Per Nyberg contributed to this report.

 
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