Otto Warmbier, the American college student who had been detained in North Korea for over a year, has died.
This news comes just days after Warmbier was finally released and sent back home to Cincinnati, Ohio. He had been arrested last year for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. Otto Warmbier was a student at the University of Virginia, visiting with an organized tour, and had only been in the country for five days when he was taken into custody. He was arrested on January 2, 2016 while boarding a plane to Beijing and was later convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Warmbier arrived home in a coma last week, due, according to North Korean authorities, to contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he received treatment, however, found no evidence of botulism. Instead, they described his condition as cardiopulmonary arrest, citing that he had “extensive loss of tissue” in all parts of his brain.
Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy, announced that their son had died in a statement Monday afternoon, referring to North Korea’s handling of the situation as “awful torturous mistreatment” that could not possibly have provided any other possible outcome “beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
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When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace.
U.S. officials have condemned North Korea’s treatment of Warmbier. Arizona Sen. John McCain called Warmbier’s death “murder” by the “Kim Jong-un regime,” while Vice President Mike Pence called it “a tragic example of North Korea's disregard for human life.”
Donald Trump, for his part, offered his own condolences:
Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing. There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto’s family and friends, and all who loved him.
Otto Warmbier was 22.