Otto Warmbier, the US student who was arrested in North Korea for espionage and freed a few days ago after spending 17 months in prison, has been confirmed dead.
The 22-year-old was sent back to his home country in coma.
He arrived barely a week ago on a Medivac flight and was admitted at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he received emergency treatments.
Doctors described his condition as a state of “unresponsive wakefulness.”
His parent’s parents [Fred and Cindy Warmbier] said in a statement after his arrival, “…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 North Korean government claims he suffered botulism during his brief stay in prison.
“All we know so far is what they have told us,” an official with the US State Department 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.”
Otto was studying Commerce at Virginia University before traveling to North Korea on a tourist visa. He was caught stealing a political slogan at a hotel where he stayed in February 2016.
During his sentencing, the student denied working for the CIA or FBI.
“Otto has completed his journey home,” relatives of the deceased said in a statement. No mention was made of the cause of death.
“…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,” his parents said.
North Korea said he [Otto] was freed on “humanitarian grounds” considering his health situation.
The 22-year-old student was initially handed 15 years in prison with hard labor, but he gained “freedom” after 17 months.