UPDATE 3 — 6/15, 3:52 p.m. EDT: Doctors attending to recently repatriated American student Otto Warmbier say the 22-year-old has suffered serious brain damage from his time in North Korean custody and has not spoken or “engaged in any purposeful movements” since his return to the U.S.
UPDATE 2 — 6/15, 12:24 p.m. EDT: Following North Korean state news agency KCNA’s announcement American student Otto Warmbier was released from custody on “humanitarian grounds,” Warmbier’s father, Fred, held a news conference Thursday and criticized the Obama administration for not doing more to retrieve his son.
“The question is do I think the past administration could have done more? I think the results speak for themselves,” he said.
UPDATE — 6/15, 10:28 a.m. EDT: A spokeswoman for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Thursday that Otto Warmbier, who is currently in a coma, suffered “severe neurological injury,” while in North Korean custody over the past year and a half.
Warmbier’s parents said Tuesday that Otto was “brutalized and terrorized” by North Korean authorities, who arrested and convicted the 22-year-old University of Virginia student in March 2016 for tearing down a political propaganda poster from a hotel in Pyongyang.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced Tuesday morning North Korea has released Otto Warmbier, an American citizen jailed by the hermit state since January 2016.
Warmbier had been serving a 15-year sentence for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel in December 2015. North Korea defined Warmbier’s activity as a “hostile act.”
The announcement of North Korea’s hand-off of the young American coincides with former NBA player Dennis Rodman’s arrival in Pyongyang, who said he hopes to “open the door” for talks between the two countries. Rodman, who appeared on President Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2009, has also met with Kim Jong-un during four previous trips to North Korea since 2013.
“I’m just here to see some friends and have a good time,” Rodman told reporters at the Pyongyang airport Tuesday.
Neither the State Department nor Tillerson offered any details, citing the Warmbier family’s privacy. However, the New York Times reported a senior State Department official who said a U.S. representative named Joseph Yun was sent to Pyongyang to retrieve Warmbier after meeting with a North Korean ambassador to the UN on June 6, who informed him of the detained American’s medical condition.
Despite little information from the White House itself, the Washington Post said Warmbier’s parents spoke to reporters about their son’s return to America.
“Our son is coming home. At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight,” said Warmbeir’s father, Fred.
Fred also informed the press Otto had to be delivered home to Cincinnati in a medical flight due to an illness which placed him in a coma. It is believed Warmbier has been unconscious since shortly after his March 2016 trial and conviction. The 22-year-old student most likely succumbed to a case of botulism and North Korean medical personnel administered a sleeping pill at which time Warmbier fell into the coma.
Warmbier was part of a tour group visiting Asia in 2015 when he was arrested in Pyongyang. The University of Virginia student was convicted after a one-hour trial in March 2016.
Three other American citizens are currently imprisoned in North Korea. Kim Dong-chul, Kim Sang-duk, and Kim Hak-song remain in jail. Their location and condition remain a mystery.
[BBC] [AP] [New York Times] [CNN] [Reuters] [Politico] [Photo courtesy Getty Images/CNN via WCPO Cincinnati]