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Boston Man Imprisoned In N. Korea Returns

This article is more than 9 years old.
Aijalon Gomes is welcomed home after a seven-month imprisonment in North Korea by his family. President Jimmy Carter, who flew to North Korea to request Gomes' release, looks on. (David Boeri/WBUR)
Aijalon Gomes is welcomed home after a seven-month imprisonment in North Korea by his family. President Jimmy Carter, who flew to North Korea to request Gomes' release, looks on. (David Boeri/WBUR)

A day after he was released by North Korea to former President Jimmy Carter, Aijalon Gomes returned to Boston Friday.

The 31-year-old evangelist who crossed into North Korea from South Korea last January had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor, but was granted amnesty upon the request of Carter.

President Carter hugs Aijalon Gomes shortly after the two deplaned after flying back from North Korea, where Gomes was imprisoned for seven months. (David Boeri/WBUR)
President Carter hugs Aijalon Gomes shortly after the two deplaned after flying back from North Korea, where Gomes was imprisoned for seven months. (David Boeri/WBUR)

Gomes' family and friends applauded as Carter walked down the stars and onto the tarmac. Some of them held a banner that read "Welcome Disciple of God… Salvation is Ours."

Then came Gomes, first embracing the former president, then his mother and his grandfather.

He had been teaching English in South Korea when he walked across the border into North Korea, a month after a fellow Christian had done the same thing. During Gomes' seven-month imprisonment, the North Korean news agency reported that he had attempted suicide.

Earlier in the day, Gomes' mother, Jacqueline McCarthy, gathered Friday with family and friends at her home in the Boston neighborhood of Mattapan, where they prayed and praised God before leaving for the airport.

"I'm just joyful and grateful that my son is home, and thank President Jimmy Carter for making sure that he was home safely," she said. "I thank God, I thank God, for everything everyone has done for us."

Gomes was beaming and Carter gave a thumbs-up to the crowd at Boston's Logan Airport, but neither one nor any members of Gomes family commented to the media assembled on the tarmac.

In a written statement, the family thanked Carter and Swedish diplomats in North Korea for their efforts. It also thanked the government of North Korea for "caring for Aijalon during his darkest days, then agreeing to release him on humanitarian grounds."

It was unclear what prompted Gomes to enter the repressive nation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This program aired on August 27, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

David Boeri Twitter Senior Reporter
Now retired, David Boeri was a senior reporter at WBUR.

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