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'In Coma' Condition, North Korea Releases Jailed US Student

In Coma Condition, North Korea Releases Jailed US Student
US student, Otto Warmbier
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WASHINGTON DC - US student, Otto Warmbier has been freed from jail in North Korea. But his parents say he has been in a coma for a year.

The US secretary of state said the 22-year-old was on his way home to US. The Warmbier family told US media they had found out only last week that their son has been in a coma since shortly after his trial in March 2016. Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

Who is Otto Warmbier? Warmbier is an economics student from the University of Virginia, originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. He was in North Korea as a tourist with Young Pioneer Tours when arrested on 2 January 2016.

He appeared emotional at a news conference a month later, in which he tearfully confessed to trying to take the sign as a "trophy" for a US church, adding "the aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people".

Foreign detainees in North Korea have previously recanted confessions, saying they were made under pressure. After a short trial on 16 March, Warmbier was given a 15-year prison sentence for crimes against the state. His parents, Fred and Cindy told CNN in early May that they had had no contact with their son for more than a year.

What is his condition now? In a statement, Fred and Cindy said: "Otto has left North Korea. He is on a 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 2016. We learned of this only one week ago," they said

They were quoted by the Washington Post as saying they had been told Otto had contracted botulism, a rare illness that causes paralysis, soon after his trial in March 2016. He was given a sleeping pill and had been in a coma ever since, the newspaper said.

Tillerson made no mention of Warmbier's condition in his statement, saying only that he was on his way home to be reunited with his family and would not make any further comment, out of respect for the privacy of the family.



(rnz)