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North Korea trespasser on religious mission: activist

SEOUL (Reuters) - A U.S. citizen who North Korea will put on trial for illegal entry crossed the border in support of a fellow American Christian missionary who was released last month after a similar transgression, an activist said.

North Korea said on Monday it will put 30-year-old Aijalon Mahli Gomes, from Boston, on trial for illegally entering the country.

He crossed in January, about a month after Robert Park entered the state with a letter calling on leader Kim Jong-il to repent for his sins and step down.

"Gomes was a man of few words, but I believe he had the same mission in his heart that Robert did," said Jo Sung-rae, a religious activist who helped Park cross and met Gomes in South Korea at rallies in support of Park, in an email on Thursday.

Gomes had been teaching English in Seoul for about two years before making the trip to North Korea. He was also active in Protestant churches, his colleagues said.

"He was a dedicated teacher who always was on time and was very nice to his students," said a colleague at the Sinbong Elementary School who asked not to be named.

A leading South Korean daily had earlier said Gomes entered the socialist North because he no longer wanted to live in the capitalist world.

The trial announcement came as Washington has been putting pressure on Pyongyang to end a year-long boycott of nuclear disarmament-for-aid talks.

North Korea has previously used detained American citizens as bargaining chips with the United States.

In previous cases, North Korea has typically released Americans a few months after their capture.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz, Christine Kim and Jonathan Suh; Editing by David Fox)

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