North Korea: We released Otto Warmbier for 'humanitarian' reasons

WYOMING — Otto Warmbier's parents are scheduled to speak Thursday, days after their son – in a coma – was released by North Korea.

Follow Cincinnati.com for updates from the 10 a.m. press conference in Wyoming. 

The 22-year old Wyoming High School graduate and University of Virginia student had been detained and imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year.

His parents, Fred and Cindy, said they learned earlier this month he has been in a coma for a year.  Otto Warmbier returned to Cincinnati late Tuesday night and is now at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. 

"We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korea," Warmbier's parents said in a statement earlier this week. "We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him."

Residents of the Cincinnati suburb plan to gather at the Wyoming Civic Center at 10 a.m. and then line Springfield Pike in a show of support for the Warmbiers. 

'I want my kid home'

Otto’s parents had relentlessly pressed – first behind the scenes and then more publicly – for their son’s release.

“I want my kid home. He doesn’t deserve this,” Fred Warmbier told The Enquirer in an interview last month.

During his incarceration, the Warmbiers only heard from Otto once – through a letter on March 2, 2016.  He noted that the North Koreans had refused to let Swedish officials – America’s diplomatic intermediaries in that country – visit or contact Otto for more than a year.

“Since March 2nd, no one has seen or heard from Otto. No one,” Fred Warmbier said last month.

It was apparently shortly after that date when Otto Warmbier fell ill. Some media reports said the North Koreans suggested he had come down with a case of botulism and fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill – an account questioned by a number of officials.

North Korea gives first explanation

North Korea said Thursday it released Warmbier over "humanitarian" reasons, its first official comment since he was returned to his home state of Ohio in a coma.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Otto Warmbier had been serving hard labor but didn't comment on his medical condition or how the country negotiated his release with the United States.

"Warmbier, who had been in hard labor, was sent back home on June 13, 2017, on humanitarian grounds according to the adjudication made on the same day by the Central Court of the DPRK," the agency said in the one-sentence report, referring to North Korea by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

 

 

Cincinnati Enquirer


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