Date
20 August 2017
A file photo shows Otto Warmbier (C), an American student who was detained in North Korea since early January 2016, being taken to a court in Pyongyang. Credit: Reuters/Kyodo
A file photo shows Otto Warmbier (C), an American student who was detained in North Korea since early January 2016, being taken to a court in Pyongyang. Credit: Reuters/Kyodo

North Korea frees American student said to be in coma

North Korea has released a 22-year-old American college student, Otto Warmbier, who was arrested during a visit last year​ and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

According to his family, they were informed that their son, who was on his way back to the United States on Tuesday, has been in a coma for over a year, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested for allegedly trying to remove a political poster from a hotel in Pyongyang in January 2016 while on a tourist visit.

In March last year, North Korean authorities sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor.

The student’s parents said they were told their son has been in a coma since March 2016 but they learned of his condition only one week ago, according to a statement given to the Associated Press.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, testifying in Washington before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had “no comment on Warmbier’s condition out of respect to him and his family”.

In February 2016, Warmbier appeared on North Korean state-run TV offering an apology. “I understand the severity of my crime,” he said. 

The US State Department said the release by Pyongyang wasn’t related to a visit to North Korea under way Tuesday by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, who is on a private trip to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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