An American student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested earlier in February 2016 for daring to spy on Kim Jong Un’s autocratic government, has been released from prison.
Warmbier was “repatriated” to the US after 17 months, but not in the same health condition as he was before his arrest. He went home in coma, and is still battling to live a normal life.
Image: Otto Warmbier
His parents said in a statement that their son was “brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime.”
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents to the North Korean returnee 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.”
The former Commerce student at Virginia university was caught after he tried stealing a political slogan from the hotel where he stayed. He was 21 years old at the time.
He confessed at that time that he had committed grave offenses against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), adding that most of his crimes were orchestrated on New Year’s Day 2016.
Warmbier constantly apologized for his crimes, saying he was a “political victim of the consistent US hostile foreign policy against the DPRK.”
Although it was unknown whether his confessions were made under duress, the student who entered North Korea with a tourist visa, is now back in the US.
He was carried off a plane and is currently receiving treatments at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, a hospital spokeswoman said.
North Korea said Warmbier contacted botulism, a severe neurological injury, since March 2016 and was given a sleeping pill for an induced coma.
According to a CNN report, a senior State Department official said the returnee’s health condition as well as his experiences in the Asian country cannot be ascertained until proper medical assessments are carried out.
“All we know so far is what they have told us,” the official said. “This is the North Korean version of events. We won’t know anything for sure until doctors are able to fully evaluate Otto’s condition.”
Warmbier was found guilty in March 2016 after a court trial which lasted about an hour. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Botulism is a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that attacks the body’s nerves, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It usually starts with weakness of the muscles that control the eyes, face, mouth and throat and can lead to difficulty breathing and even death.