Otto Warmbier, who was in detention in North Korean and in Coma for the last one year, has reportedly been released. He is still in coma.
The 22-year old University of Virginia student was arrested in January 2016 at the airport in Pyongyang. He was all set to board a flight to America, when North Korean police descended at the spot and took him under custody.
Warmbier has been in North Korean captivity for the last 17 months after being arrested in January last year. His parents have confirmed the report of his release from prison, but the details of how he is being brought back to the US are still rather sketchy.
Nonetheless reports suggest that he is already on his way to home. Reports suggest that the American tourist had contracted botulism and is in “bad shape” but en route back to the United States.
In a statement released to media, his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier said, “Otto has left North Korea. He is on Medivac flight on his way home. Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago…We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korean. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him.”
The American student had gone to North Korea as a tourist with Young Pioneer Tours.. North Korean officials claim that during his travel, he allegedly stole a propaganda sign from a staff-only floor in the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang, where he was staying along with around 100 other Westerners, including other American citizens.
To substantiate the allegation of this theft by the young man, North Korea’s news agency released a video purporting to show the theft itself. In the 18-second low-resolution video, a shadowed figure removes the sign from the wall and places it on the floor, leaning against the wall. This action is shown twice, followed by a higher-resolution picture of the sign on the wall.
He was the only person to have been arrested from the group of Americans and other tourists in the group. He was arrested on January 2, from Pyongyang International Airport. A source familiar with the government’s efforts to free Warmbier says the State Department learned about the student’s medical condition about a week ago. US officials then urged those with the ability to persuade Pyongyang to ratchet up the pressure to get him released, the source said. There are three other Americans currently being held in North Korea. Two of them, Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak-song, are academics who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The other is a businessman named Kim Dong Chul.