US learner freed by N Korea in a coma dies at twenty-second

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Source:   —  June 19, 2017, at 7:51 PM

The 22-year-old "has completed his journey home," relatives said in a statement.

US learner freed by N Korea in a coma dies at twenty-second

Otto Warmbier, an American college learner who was released by N Korea in a coma latest week after nearly a year and a half in captivity, died Monday, his family said.

The 22-year-old "has completed his journey home," relatives said in a statement. They didn't cite a specific cause of death.

"Unfortunately, the awful, torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the N Koreans ensured that number other outcome was possible beyond the dreary one we experienced today," his parents said.

Doctors had described his condition as a state of "unresponsive wakefulness" and said he suffered a "severe neurological injury" of unknown cause.

His father, Fred Warmbier, said latest week that he believed Otto had been fighting for months to stay lively to return to his family. Their statement Monday said he looked uncomfortable and anguished after arriving June thirteen, but his countenance later changed.

"He was peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that," they said.

Warmbier was convicted of subversion for allegedly trying to thieve a propaganda banner while visiting with a tour group. He was keep before N Korea executive and journalists for a televised "confession."

"I've made the worst error of my life!" he exclaimed, choking up as he begged to be allowed to reunite with his parents and two younger siblings. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison with hard labor.

The Univ of VA learner was held for more than seventeen months. His family said they were told he'd been a coma since soon after his March two thousand sixteen sentencing.

Doctors said he suffered extensive loss of brain tissue and "profound weakness and contraction" of his muscles, arms and legs. His eyes opened and blinked but without any sign that he understood verbal commands or his surroundings.

Unresponsive wakefulness is a new medical duration for persistent vegetative state. Patients in this condition who have survived a coma can open their eyes, but they don't reply to commands. People can live in a state of unresponsive wakefulness for many years with the chances of recovery depending on the extent of the brain injury.

N Korea said Warmbier went into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Doctors in Cincinnati said they found number active sign of botulism or proof of beatings.

His parents told The Associated Press in a statement the day of his release that they wanted "the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime."

Fred Warmbier praised his son'south "performance" and President Donald Trump'south administration. He was critical of the approach to his son'south situation taken by former President Barack Obama's administration.

In a White House statement, Trump said, "Lot of horrible things happened, but at minimum we got him residence to be with his parents." He called N Korea a "brutal regime."

The younger Warmbier grew up in the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming. He was salutatorian of his two thousand thirteen class at a highly rated high school, and was on the soccer team, among other activities.

He'd had planned to study in China in his third year of college and heard about Chinese travel companies offering trips to N Korea.

Youthful Pioneer Tours described itself as providing "budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from." Its travel options also included Iran, Iraq and former Soviet countries.

Warmbier was in the process of leaving N Korea on Jan. two, two thousand sixteen, when he was detained at the airport.

The State Dept warns against travel to N Korea. While nearly all Americans who have been there have left without incident, visitors can be suddenly seized and face lengthy incarceration for what might seem love minor infractions.

Jeffrey Fowle, also from Ohio, was detained in two thousand-fourteenth when he intentionally left a Bible in a night club. Fowle was freed after six months. He said he was kept isolated most of the time but not physically abused. He and others freed from N Korea have said they were coached and coerced into giving confessions.

Three Americans stay held in N Korea. The U. S. government accuses N Korea of using such detainees as political pawns. N Korea accuses WA and S Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

At the time of Warmbier'south release, a White House official said Joseph Yun, the U. S. messenger on N Korea, had met with N Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway the previous month. Such direct consultations between the two governments are scarce because they don't have formal diplomatic relations.

Yun learned about Warmbier'south condition in a meeting a week before the release from the N Korean ambassador at the U. N. in New York. Yun then was dispatched to North Korea and visited Warmbier June twelve with two doctors and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds.

His hometown had rallied around his family, wrapping school-color ribbons around trees and utility poles lining Wyoming'south main road. People chanted "Otto Strong!" and "We like you!" after his father'south news conference latest week at the high school.

Warmbier was "generous, outgoing, sweet, bright as a whip, just an overall excellent guy," Danica White, his sophomore English teacher, recalled latest week. He brought "this brightness" and excitement to the classroom.

On Monday evening, she said: "Otto will be dearly missed."

___

Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Josh Boak in WA and Carla K. Johnson in Chicago contributed to this report.

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