Student Freed by N. Korea Is Reportedly in a Coma

Otto Warmbier is on way back to US
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2017 8:53 AM CDT
Updated Jun 13, 2017 9:39 AM CDT
North Korea Frees US College Student
In this Feb. 29, 2016, file photo, American student Otto Warmbier is presented to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)

North Korea on Tuesday freed a US college student it has held for more than a year, but the good news is tempered by a report that Otto Warmbier is in a coma. His parents spoke to the Washington Post about his medical condition, saying they were told by North Korean officials that the 22-year-old developed botulism after his March 2016 trial, was given a sleeping pill, and never regained consciousness. He is due back home in suburban Cincinnati on Tuesday evening. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the release, per the AP, though he didn't mention Warmbier's medical condition. The news came on the same day that former NBA star Dennis Rodman returned to North Korea, though it was unclear whether there was any connection.

"Our son is coming home," dad Fred Warmbier tells the Post. "At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight." The University of Virginia student had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last year after he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner in his hotel—an apparent trophy, of sorts— while visiting as a tourist. Warmbier had gone to the country as part of a new year's tour in January of that year and has been held ever since. Tillerson says the US will continue to try to win the release of three other Americans still held by the North. (More North Korea stories.)

Get breaking news in your inbox.
What you need to know, as soon as we know it.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.