Otto Warmbier: North Korea 'releases jailed USA student'

Cheryl Sanders
June 14, 2017

Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate student, was just released from North Korea after being detained there for more than a year.

The news of Warmbier's release comes the same day as basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang for an expected four-night visit.

Rodman has visited North Korea at least four times and is one of the few Americans to have met current North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un.

When asked if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea, Rodman told reporters, "that's not my goal right now".

"At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea", Tillerson said. Sandy Hausman reports on what's known about Otto Warmbier and on reaction from the University of Virginia, where he would have graduated this year.

Tillerson, at a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday, declined to comment on Warmbier's condition.

"Our son is coming home", Fred Warmbier told the outlet Tuesday. They said they have been told their son has been in a coma since March 2016 - when he was last seen in public, at his trial when he was sentenced to hard labor - and they had learned of this only one week ago.


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". A person who answered the phone at Warmbier's family's OH residence said: "No comment, thank you" and hung up.

FILE - In this February 29, 2016 file photo, American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no formal statement had been released.

But Nauert is firm in stating "Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with the release of Mr. Warmbier". It is, however, his first trip since Trump, his former "Celebrity Apprentice" boss, became president. He told reporters in Beijing, as he departed for Pyongyang, that he hopes his trip will "open a door" for Trump.

Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary, served two years of detention in the North before being released in November 2014 when then-U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made a secret trip to Pyongyang to win his release and that of another U.S. detainee. Such meetings are unusual because the two governments do not have diplomatic relations. But efforts to persuade North Korea to release the men now held had not been successful until Warmbier's release Tuesday.

Following the May meeting in Oslo, North Korea urgently requested another meeting, which took place last week between the USA envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, and the North's ambassador at the U.N.in NY.

Yun then met last week with the North Korean ambassador at the U.N.in NY.

Tillerson said the State Department is continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens imprisoned there.


Warmbier was found guilty and sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years hard labor.

Warmbier, 22, is due to arrive home in Cincinnati on Tuesday evening, after a stop at a US military facility near Sapporo, Japan. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

Before his trial, Mr Warmbier said he tried to steal the propaganda sign as a trophy for an acquaintance who wanted to hang it in her church. "In no uncertain terms, North Korea must explain the causes of his coma". He identified the church as Friendship United Methodist Church.

In a tearful statement made before his trial, Warmbier told a gathering of reporters in Pyongyang he was offered a used vehicle worth $10,000 if he could get a propaganda banner and was also told that if he was detained and didn't return, $200,000 would be paid to his mother in the form of a charitable donation.

Earlier Tuesday, Fred Warmbier told The Cincinnati Enquirer said the family would hold a news conference Wednesday in Cincinnati, with the details yet to be finalized. "This is a Trump-led effort", one said. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Cleveland said the country's "despicable actions ... must be condemned". His release brought to three the number of Americans held in the North.

A year later, another former United States president Jimmy Carter visited the North and won the release of American national Aijalon Mahli Gomes, sentenced to eight years of hard labour for illegally crossing into the North from China.

North Korea has woefully inadequate medical care, and it is not clear how North Korean doctors had been caring for Warmbier for more than a year in an unconscious state.


Other reports by iNewsToday

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