Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week, has died, according to his family.
The family announced his death on Monday in a statement released by UC Health Systems, saying, “It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20pm.”
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.
|A person believed to be Otto Warmbier was transferred from a medical transport airplane to an awaiting ambulance in the US state of Ohio on June 13 [Reuters]|
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 was not clear what caused it.
Parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier told The Associated Press news agency 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 regime ” and expressed relief he had been returned to “finally be with people who love him.”
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 behavior.”
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.
Source: AP news agency