N.Korea threatens reprisal on American

Aijalon Mahli Gomes of Boston has been jailed. Aijalon Mahli Gomes of Boston has been jailed.
By associated press
June 25, 2010

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SEOUL — North Korea threatened yesterday to increase punishment for a Boston man who was sentenced to hard labor for illegally entering the country, citing what it called a hostile US policy toward Pyongyang.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes was sentenced in April to eight years of hard labor and fined $700,000 for entering the country illegally and for an unspecified “hostile act.’’

The Obama administration urged North Korea not to link his case with efforts to censure the communist nation for the sinking of a South Korean warship in March.

North Korea should “separate political rhetoric from this matter concerning a private American citizen,’’ the State Department said.

The United States had previously asked North Korea to release him on humanitarian grounds.

Thaleia Schlesinger, a spokeswoman for Gomes’s family in Boston, said they had not heard the news and did not immediately have a comment.

Communist North Korea has freed three other Americans detained for illegal entry, but ruled out Gomes’s release amid tensions over the sinking of the warship. The North denies it was responsible and has warned that any moves to punish it at the United Nations could lead to nuclear war.

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