Jailed US student released in North Korea

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2017

North Korea has released 22-year-old American student Otto Warmbier from a 15-year sentence of hard labor, officials said Tuesday, as former U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the release was secured "at the direction of the President", adding that Mr Warmbier was "en route to the US where he will be reunited with his family".

Tillerson said the State Department is still discussing the release of two other Americans detained in North Korea.

It's understood that he has been in a coma since shortly after his show trial in March past year.

Warmbier's exact condition was not known, but his parents said they were told that he had gotten botulism soon after his trial and had been given a sleeping pill, from which he never woke up.

Mr Warmbier, 21, was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

In a statement, they said: "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalised and terrorised by the pariah regime".

He was last seen during his hour-long trial last March for "hostile acts against the state", and hasn't been in the public eye since.

Sullivan said, "The UVA family will continue to keep the Warmbiers in our thoughts and prayers as Otto returns to the United States and his home where he will receive the care and support of those who love him".

North Korea is believed to still hold at least two US citizens ― Tony Kim, who had been in the country teaching at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and Kim Dong-chul, an American businessman imprisoned on charges of espionage.

On the same trip, he suggested an American missionary was at fault for his own imprisonment in North Korea, remarks for which he later apologized.

A senior administration official said the Trump administration did not authorise Rodman's trip. This will be Rodman's fourth visit to the nation to meet with Kim, a basketball enthusiast.

Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea today, where he has previously met with despot Kim Jong-un. "This is the North Korean version of events".

North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the US -backed South Korean government to take control of the Korean Peninsula.

He was detained in January 2016 at the Pyongyang airport on his way home from visiting the country. Rob Portman, who represents Warmbier's home state of Ohio.

At the start of the exhibition game, Rodman sang "Happy Birthday" to Kim, who was seated in the arena, and bowed deeply as the North Korean players clapped. Rodman backed Trump's presidential campaign and twice appeared on his "Celebrity Apprentice" TV show.

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.

"With tensions as high as they are, we felt that we needed to talk about Otto and put a face on the person", Cindy Warmbier said.

Other reports by iNewsToday