North Korea releases US citizen serving 15-year prison term

Elias Hubbard
June 14, 2017

Mr Warmbier, 22, is due to arrive home in Cincinnati on Tuesday evening, after a stop at a United States military facility in Sapporo, Japan.

Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old student from OH was released from prison, and is set to be home Tuesday night. Fred, Cindy, and the Warmbier family have been remarkably strong throughout this ordeal. Given the passage of time, though, it may not be possible to determine if his coma is the result of some reaction to the drugs he was given to treat botulism or due to something else, such as physical abuse by the North Koreans. The family hoped that diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea would one day improve so that they could see their son.

The Washington Post cited Warmbier's parents as saying he had been medically evacuated from North Korea in a coma. "This is him freelancing", the official told Reuters.

Warmbier hails from Wyoming, Ohio (a suburb of Cincinnati), and was attending the University of Virginia when he was detained in Pyongyang, where he traveled as a tourist.

Otto Warmbier, 22, was detained in the North Korean capital in January previous year and accused of committing a "hostile act" while visiting the secretive state with a tour group.

A senior American official said there had been intelligence reports in recent weeks that indicated Mr. Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten while in North Korean custody.

The official, who was not authorized to speak on the record about the sequence of events and requested anonymity, said that after Tillerson consulted with Trump, Yun was dispatched to North Korea.

It's unclear if Warmbier's release is related to the visit, whether Rodman will be meeting Kim Jong-un, or what the exact goal of his trip is.

Rodman's current trip is his first since Trump, his former "Celebrity Apprentice" boss, became president. Yun discussed the situation with Secretary of State Tillerson and President Trump, who sent him to North Korea to bring Warmbier home.

Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was arrested for removing a political banner from a wall in a North Korean hotel during a visit.

He also has been roundly criticized for visiting during times of high tensions between the USA and North Korea over its weapons programs. He was arrested by North Korean authorities and later shown on video giving a tearful confession in March 2016. He identified the church as Friendship United Methodist Church. It said its special envoy on North Korean policy met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway last month.

He told reporters he was offered a used vehicle worth $10,000 (£7,840) if he could obtain a sign, adding that $200,000 (£156,860) would be paid to his mother if he was detained and didn't return. A person who answered the phone at Warmbier's family's OH residence said: "No comment, thank you" and hung up.

Is Warmbier's release cause and effect? He said Warmbier's sentence was "unnecessary and appalling". Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Cleveland said the country's "despicable actions. must be condemned".

It is unclear what the status of the other three American citizens held in North Korea is, but this process jump-started the expedited release of Warmbier. He was detained in January 2016 at the Pyongyang airport on his way home from visiting the country.

Jeffrey Fowle, another US tourist from OH detained for six months at about the same time as Miller, was released just before that and sent home on a USA government plane.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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