Otto dies af­ter his N. Korea re­lease

Fam­ily mourns, Trump blasts ‘bru­tal­ity’

New York Post - - NEWS - By DANIKA FEARS

The co­matose Uni­ver­sity of Vir­ginia stu­dent who spent a har­row­ing year and a half in a North Korea prison died Mon­day “sur­rounded by his lov­ing fam­ily,” rel­a­tives said.

“It would be easy at a mo­ment like this to fo­cus on all that we lost,” a fam­ily state­ment said of Otto Warm­bier, 22, who suf­fered a se­vere neu­ro­log­i­cal in­jury while be­hind bars. “But we choose to fo­cus on the time we were given to be with this re­mark­able per­son.”

Pres­i­dent Trump re­sponded to news by say­ing “Me­la­nia and I of­fer our deep­est, con­do­lences” — and declar­ing that North Korea is “a bru­tal regime and we’ll be able to han­dle it.”

“Otto’s fate deep­ens my ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­ter­mi­na­tion to pre­vent such tragedies from be­falling in­no­cent peo­ple at the hands of regimes that do not re­spect the rule of law or ba­sic hu­man de­cency,” the pres­i­dent said.

“The United States once again con­demns the bru­tal­ity of the North Korean regime as we mourn its lat­est vic­tim.”

Af­ter serv­ing 18 months of a 15year prison sen­tence for steal­ing a pro­pa­ganda poster, Warm­bier was re­leased last Tues­day and re­turned to his home state of Ohio, where he was treated at the Uni­ver­sity of Cincin­nati Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

“When Otto re­turned to Cincin­nati . . . he was un­able to speak, un­able to see and un­able to re­act to ver­bal com­mands,” his fam­ily said.

“He looked very un­com­fort­able — al­most an­guished. Al­though we would never hear his voice again, within a day the coun­te­nance of his face changed — and he was at peace. He was home and we be­lieve he could sense that.”

His fam­ily added in the writ­ten state­ment,: “Un­for­tu­nately, the aw­ful tor­tur­ous mis­treat­ment our son re­ceived at the hands of the North Kore­ans en­sured that no other out­come was pos­si­ble be­yond the sad one we ex­pe­ri­enced to­day.”

North Korean of­fi­cials re­port­edly claimed Warm­bier fell into a coma af­ter con­tract­ing bot­u­lism and tak­ing a sleep­ing pill.

But The New York Times re­ported that US in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials be­lieve that he was sav­agely beaten while be­ing held in North Korean cus­tody.

Doc­tors at the Cincin­nati hospi­tal said there were no signs of bot­u­lism and that he had suf­fered ex­ten­sive loss of tis­sue through­out his brain, ac­cord­ing to re­ports.

Warm­bier re­port­edly took the poster from a staff-only area at a Py­ongyang ho­tel.

Dur­ing a brief trial in a North Korean kan­ga­roo court, he ad­mit­ted to tak­ing the poster and gave an ef­fu­sive apol­ogy in which he called his ac­tions “the worst mis­take of my life.”

Dur­ing the hear­ing, he made bizarre claims — which were likely co­erced — in­clud­ing that a friend’s mother had of­fered him a $10,000 car and $20,000 in cash if he took the poster.

SAD END: Otto Warm­bier, 22, in tears af­ter his ar­rest, was sub­jected to “tor­tur­ous mis­treat­ment” for a mi­nor of­fense.

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