This story has been updated to reflect current events.
On January 2nd, 2016 UVa student Otto Warmbier was arrested for the theft of a political propaganda poster while on a New Year’s Eve Tour in North Korea. On March 15th, the foreign nation’s Supreme Court found him guilty of subversion and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor.
Today, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that Warmbier has been released.
“At the direction of the President, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,” Tillerson stated. “Mr. Warmbier is en route to the U.S where he will be reunited with his family.”
The UVa student is coming home.
[1:14 PM June 13, 2017 Update]: The Washington Post is now reporting that Warmbier’s parents told the news outlet that their son has been evacuated from North Korea in a comatose state. The Post also stated that Warmbier is said to have been in a coma for more than a year. North Korea told the Warmbier’s that their son came down with a case of botulism shortly after his trial and was given a sleeping pill. The American supposedly never woke up. Whether the events described by North Korea are accurate is not clear. Warmbier is due to arrive home in Cincinnati later this evening after evacuating via the American military base in Sapporo, Japan.
[7:14 PM June 13, 2017 Update]: Teresa A Sullivan, President of the University of Virginia, has sent an email to the University community with a note from Otto Warmbier’s parents confirming his comatose status. Their message is as follows:
“Otto has left North Korea. He is on Medivac flight on his way home. Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago. We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korea. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him.”‘
[8:46 PM June 15, 2017 Update]: Following his arrival in the United States, Warmbier received medical attention from the University of Cincinnati’s neurocritical care unit. The director of the program, Daniel Kanter, announced during a press briefing Thursday that Warmbier’s condition is “best described as unresponsive wakefulness.” The American’s vital signs remain stable and non-neurological organs are undamaged but there has been an “extensive loss of tissue” in all regions of Warmbier’s brain.His condition was likely caused by cardiopulmonary arrest–there is no evidence that he endured a case of botulism as North Korea stated. There are also no signs of physical trauma to Warmbier. The American is getting the medical care he failed to receive in North Korea.
This is a developing story, stay tuned for updates