North Korea’s official news agency reported Monday that a U.S. citizen who they have detained since January will be indicted “as his crime has been confirmed.”
According to the Korean Central News Agency, 30-year-old Aijalon Mahli Gomes of Boston will face trial after having “illegally entered the country” – an announcement that the U.S. State Department said is “obviously" a cause for concern.
“We are obviously concerned about … whatever legal process he might face,” State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley told the press Monday.
“We have concerns about … the lack of transparency in their (North Korea’s) judicial processes,” he added.
Crowley also told reporters that the department was concerned about Gomes’ health and welfare, but declined to provide specific information that they’ve received from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which he said has met with Gomes a few times since his arrest.
Because the United States does not have diplomatic ties with North Korea, Sweden's embassy is handling U.S. affairs in Pyongyang.
In his report, Crowley expressed gratitude for the work that Sweden does on behalf of the United States and said the State Department will continue to encourage Gomes’ release.
“We will continue through the Embassy – the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to make sure that he has appropriate representation should North Korea follow through with any legal proceeding,” Crowley reported.
According to reports, Gomes went to South Korea to teach English for a year at an elementary school in a city near the North Korean border but was supposed to conclude in March 2009.
The churchgoing American is believed to have been living in Uijongbu, a large town north of Seoul, prior to his arrest in Jan. 28.
When he left South Korea or how he entered the North, however, remains unknown.
The last American detained in North Korea, Robert Park, was freed after being held for 43 days.
Unlike Park, however, Gomes has been formerly indicted and faces trial.
A spokeswoman for Gomes’ family in Boston, Thaleia Schlesinger, told The Associated Press that the family is going through a difficult time and is "praying for his speedy return home."
She also said that it was unclear why he would have gone to North Korea.