Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Samuel Alioto
Observer Staff Writer 

Otto Warmbier Has Died, His Family Announces, After Returning Last Week in a Coma from DPRK

Visit North Korea, Get Arrested, Return to US In a Coma. Otto Warmbier just did.

 

"Otto has left North Korea. He is on Medivac flight on his way home. Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago," said Fred and Cindy Warmbier in a statement.

Update: Lunken Airport Manager confirms Otto Warmbier will arrive at Lunken around 10pm, he will then be transported to UC Medical Center. @WLWT pic.twitter.com/mUQHm6hjg…

The North Korean government has finally released Otto Warmbier, 22, the University of Virginia college student who was detained for stealing a banner out of the balcony of his Pyongyang hotel room. The bad news is, he's been in a coma for 16 months after contracting botulism.

Meanwhile, Warmbier's parents told Washington Post that Warmbier contracted botulism after his trial, that he had been in a coma for over a year during his time in North Korea, and was being medically evacuated, adding that he will return to his home in Cincinnati later that evening, meaning Tuesday night.

"Otto has left North Korea. He is on Medivac flight on his way home. Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago," said Fred and Cindy Warmbier in a statement.

"We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korean. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him."US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also confirmed Warmbier's release in a statement.

Otto Frederick Warmbier (born 1994) is an American citizen who was imprisoned in North Korea after having been convicted and sentenced to 15 years' hard labor at the age of 21 for "hostile acts against the DPRK". He was arrested over the alleged theft of a political propaganda poster, on January 2, 2016, during a tour in North Korea with an independent travel company. On June 13, 2017, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the United States Department of State negotiated the release of Otto Warmbier.

Warmbier expressing regrets about stealing the hotel banner.

On March 16, two hours after US envoy Bill Richardson met with two North Korean diplomats from the United Nations office to press for Warmbier's release, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. His confession noted:

I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country, I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life

The DPRK has detained a handful of American citizens in the last ten years, and it isn't entirely clear why anyone would risk visiting there. Warmbier's release leaves 3 other Americans still detained there, for such crimes as leaving a bible in a hotel room.

 

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