An American college student who had been detained and reportedly tortured in North Korea for over a year has been released and has returned to the U.S.
FoxNews.com reports that Cincinnati native Otto Warmbier was flown back to the U.S. Tuesday night. He was immediately rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center to receive needed medical attention. He has reportedly been in a coma for “over a year,” according to a U.S. official.
Warmbier was in North Korea in 2016 on a tour when he was accused of stealing a propaganda sign from a hotel in Pyongyang. He was arrested, put on trial, convicted, and given a 15-year jail sentence.
North Korea claims that Warmbier contracted botulism before slipping into a coma, but U.S. officials have their doubts. There are also reports that Warmbier was beaten repeatedly.
Warmbier’s release comes at a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and the Democratic People’s Republic led by dictator Kim Jong-un.
Warmbier’s family and friends expressed relief that he has been released, but concern regarding his condition.
“We're very concerned for his health and future. We hope he can return to normal. We've been praying for him every night,” said the Warmbiers' neighbor, Tom Purdy, who added that Warmbier was “a great kid - truly outstanding... an athlete, a National Merit scholar and prom king. He is awesome."
“Our son is coming home,” said Otto’s father, Fred Warmbier. “At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight.”
U.S. lawmakers have called on North Korea to provide an explanation for Warmbier’s detainment and his current medical condition.
“Otto has been in a coma for over a year now and urgently needs proper medical care in the United States,” said former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who worked for Warmbier's release with his Center for Global Engagement. “We received a call from Cindy and Fred Warmbier early today to update us on Otto’s condition. In no uncertain terms North Korea must explain the causes of his coma.”
“Otto’s detainment and sentence was unnecessary and appalling, and North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior,” stated Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). “Otto should have been released from the start. For North Korea to imprison Otto with no notification or consular access for more than a year is the utmost example of its complete failure to recognize fundamental human rights and dignity.”
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/Goldcastle7
Publication date: June 14, 2017