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US student Otto Warmbier dies after returning from North Korea

June 19, 2017 9:53 PM
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US student Otto Warmbier dies after returning from North Korea

US student dies after return from North Korea0:26

OTTO Warmbier, the US student released by North Korea in a coma after more than a year in detention, has died, his family said Monday.

The 22-year-old, who had suffered severe brain damage, was medically evacuated to the United States on June 13. He died Monday afternoon US time, surrounded by family at a hospital in his home town of Cincinnati. Ohio.

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home,” his family said in a statement.

“The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible,” they added.

The White House released a statement from Mr Trump, offering his deepest condolences to the family of Mr Warmbier.

“There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life,” the statement said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto’s family and friends, and all who loved him.

“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.

“The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”

Pyongyang said that Warmbier fell into a coma soon after he was sentenced in March last year for stealing a political poster from a North Korean hotel.

But his family said they did not believe the government’s official claim that Warmbier had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill.

Doctors who examined Otto Warmbier after his release said there was no sign of botulism in his system.

The family thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treating him but said, “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.” They said they were choosing to focus on the time they were given with their “warm, engaging, brilliant” son instead of focusing on what they had lost.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour in North Korea, convicted of subversion after he tearfully confessed he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months and medically evacuated from North Korea last week. Doctors said he returned with severe brain damage, but it wasn’t clear what caused it.

Dr Daniel Kanter, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program at the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre, said Warmbier’s condition was best described as “unresponsive wakefulness” before his death.

“He shows no signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands,” he said last week.

Parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement the day of his release that they wanted “the world to know how we and our son have been brutalised and terrorised by the pariah regimen” and expressed relief he had been returned to “finally be with people who love him.” He was taken by Medivac to Cincinnati, where he grew up in suburban Wyoming. He was salutatorian of his 2013 class at the highly rated high school, and was on the soccer team among other activities.

Ohio’s US senators sharply criticised North Korea soon after his release. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of the Cincinnati area said North Korea should be “universally condemned for its abhorrent behaviour.” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland said the country’s “despicable actions ... must be condemned.” Portman added that the Warmbiers have “had to endure more than any family should have to bear.”

Three Americans remain held in North Korea. The US government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns.

North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government. At the time of Warmbier’s release, a White House official said Joseph Yun, the US envoy on North Korea, had met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway the previous month. Such direct consultations between the two governments are rare because they don’t have formal diplomatic relations.

At the meeting, North Korea agreed that Swedish diplomats could visit all four American detainees. Yun learned about Warmbier’s condition in a meeting a week before the release the North Korean ambassador at the UN in New York. Yunthen dispatched to North Korea and visited Warmbier June 12 with two doctors and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds.

Tensions between the US and North Korea have been heightened by dozens of North Korean missile launches and two nuclear bomb tests since the beginning of last year. Pyongyang has also vowed to develop a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland.

Susan Thornton, the US acting assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said on Monday the United States was concerned for the welfare of the three other US citizens still held in North Korea — Korean-Americans Tony Kim, Kim Dong Chul and Kim Hak Song.

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Source: news.com.au

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