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Former President Jimmy Carter is expected to arrive in the United States Friday with a U.S. citizen who was imprisoned in North Korea after entering the isolated communist nation illegally in January, the Carter Center said here.

North Korea sentenced the American, Aijalon Mahli Gomes, to eight years of hard labor and a fine of about $600,000 for illegally crossing its border with China and for an unspecified “hostile act.”

“At the request of President Carter, and for humanitarian purposes, Mr. Gomes was granted amnesty by the chairman of the National Defense Commission, Kim Jong-Il,” the Carter Center said in a statement. “It is expected that Mr. Gomes will be returned to Boston, Mass., early Friday afternoon, to be reunited with his mother and other members of his family.”

The Gomes family plans to issue a statement about the release late Friday morning, said spokeswoman Thaleia Schlesinger.

The U.S. State Department welcomed the development. “We … are relieved that he will soon be safely reunited with his family,” said department spokesman P.J. Crowley. “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.”

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