WASHINGTON – Otto Warmbier, a US college student who was released by North Korea less than a week ago, died on Monday, his parents said, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m. (1820 GMT),” his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.
Warmbier’s parents thanked the “wonderful professionals” at the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre and denounced North Korea for mistreating their son.
In a statement, US President Donald Trump offered his condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his passing and condemned the “brutality” of North Korea.
“Otto’s fate deepens my Administration’s determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency,” Trump said.
Warmbier’s parents have told US media that he was medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma.
North Korea confirmed his release in a report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, saying he was sent back home “on humanitarian grounds.”
The 22-year-old student from the University of Virginia has been in a state of coma for more than a year after contracting botulism soon after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in a trial by the North Korean supreme court on March 16, 2016, according to US local media.
Warmbier was detained by the North Korean authorities at the Pyongyang International Airport on his way back home in January 2016 after he attempted to take a political slogan from a staff-only area in a hotel where he stayed during his tour to the country.