American hostage freed by North Korea arrives home in a coma

Cheryl Sanders
June 15, 2017

The revelation that he had been in a coma in North Korea for more than a year will inject new momentum into efforts to have the other three released, said Evans Revere, a former senior official in the State Department who still talks to North Korean representatives.

"Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016", the parents said in a statement. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

But amid the relief, there were also new questions about what happened to him: How did a healthy young man fall into such a deep coma?

The Warmbiers had condemned the Obama administration for treating their case like "an unwanted distraction" and felt emboldened to "speak up" now that President Trump had prioritized cases like Otto's.

Koo Kab-Woo, professor at Seoul's University of North Korean Studies told AFP that Warmbier's release "on humanitarian grounds" did not mean Pyongyang was admitting to any kind of maltreatment or health problems.

Nearly immediately on taking office in January, Trump and his team - having been briefed by the outgoing president Barack Obama - declared the North's attempts to build, test and arm a nuclear-capable ballistic missile as Washington's biggest threat.

Saulnier and Warmbier met the summer before their freshman year at Virginia. He was charged with "hostile acts against the state".


He had not been seen in public since, and Swedish diplomats, representing US interests, had been denied consular access to him.

Before arriving this time, Rodman told reporters that Trump would be happy with the trip because he was "trying to accomplish something that we both need", prompting speculation that he may be operating as an unofficial envoy.

The Democrat and former USA ambassador to the United Nations credits the Department of State for working to get the student back home.

But in Pyongyang, the Swedes were allowed to see only one detainee, and it wasn't Warmbier.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea's Supreme Court in March 2016. His parents say he has been in a coma and was medically evacuated.

Chinese state tabloid Global Times issued an editorial on Tuesday saying the sports celebrity was not visiting North Korea to conduct "basketball diplomacy", but to make a "no-fuss trip" to the relatively isolated country.

"Out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family, we have no further comment on Mr. Warmbier".


"We learned of this only one week ago", Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.

By Monday, an American delegation, including Mr. Yun and a medical team, arrived in Pyongyang to take Mr. Warmbier home. They were immediately taken to Warmbier.

In Warmbier's hometown of Wyoming, just outside of Cincinnati, residents tied ribbons to trees and said news of his release had sent waves of shock and joy through the community.

Securing Warmbier's release "was a big priority" for President Donald Trump, who worked "very hard and very closely" with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The last instruction the president left Tillerson was: "Take care of Otto", the official said.

The interview will air THURSDAY at 8 p.m. ET during Tucker Carlson Tonight on Fox News Channel.

When asked what advice he might have for their families, Warmbier said he had none. North Korea gave him a sleeping pill, and he never woke up.

Three other USA citizens are being held by the regime, including two who were teaching at a private school and one who worked in a special economic zone. But he said the USA government should respond forcefully "if it's determined that there was a cover-up and Otto's condition was not disclosed and he didn't get proper treatment".


In this undated photo published on September 7, 2013, on the homepage of North Korea's Rodong Sinmun newspaper, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, talks with former National Basketball Association player Dennis Rodman during a dinner in North Korea. Rodman had told reporters before arriving in Pyongyang that the issue of Americans detained by North Korea is "not my objective right now".

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