N.Korea Refuses to Release Detained American

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U.S. State Department officials were unsuccessful in their efforts to free an American who is being held in a North Korea prison. 

Officials traveled to the North's capital of Pyongyang last week to visit U.S. citizen Aijalon Mahli Gomes.

"A U.S. consular official, two doctors, and a translator were in Pyongyang from Aug. 9-11 visiting Aijalon Mahli Gomes in a hospital, but were unable to secure his release," Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

Gomes had taught English in South Korea before he was arrested Jan. 25 by the North. He was sentenced to eight years of hard labor in April for illegally entering the communist country.

Gomes is a supporter of Robert Park, a fellow Christian who entered North Korea in December to call attention to the nation's human rights abuses. Park was released in February.

"We want to have him home as soon as possible," Crowley said of Gomes. "We've made that point clear to North Korea, and we're going to continue to make that point clear to North Korea."

The State Department said it will continue to press for Gomes' release, because of concern for his health.

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