Aijalon Gomes, the American Christian who was imprisoned in North Korea for seven months, is back home in the U.S. after being released from custody due to the efforts of former President Jimmy Carter.
Gomes, 31, departed the North Korean capital city of Pyongyang on Friday looking gaunt, but relieved. Later that afternoon, he was met by family and friends in his hometown of Boston.
"I'm just joyful and grateful that my son is home and thank President Jimmy Carter for making sure that he was home safely," Gomes' mother, Jacqueline McCarthy, said as she left her home for the airport. "I thank God, I thank God, for everything everyone has done for us."
North Korean authorities arrested Gomes in January for illegally entering the country. He was sentenced to eight years at hard labor and fined $700,000. On Tuesday, Carter flew to North Korea in an effort to negotiate Gomes' release. The former U.S. president requested a special pardon for the 31-year-old, which the communist regime's leader, Kim Jong Il, granted.
After setting his first foot on U.S. soil in months, Gomes hugged Carter and then his mother before loved ones surrounded him, praising God.
One man held a banner that read, "Welcome home! Disciple of the Lord Aijalon Mahli Gomes. Salvation is ours."
There were reports that Gomes had attempted to commit suicide in July. Efforts by the State Department earlier this month to release him were unsuccessful.
We "are relieved that he will soon be safely reunited with his family," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We appreciate former President Carter's humanitarian effort and welcome
North Korea's decision to grant Mr. Gomes special amnesty and allow him to return to the United States."
Last year, former President Bill Clinton made a similar trip to the communist country. He managed to secure the freedom of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists who had been arrested by the communist government and also sentenced to harsh labor camps.