North Korea re­leases comatose Amer­i­can af­ter 17 months.

Warm­bier had been de­tained for 17 months

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA KELLY

A for­mer Univer­sity of Vir­ginia stu­dent was med­i­cally evac­u­ated Tues­day from North Korea, where he had been de­tained 17 months ac­cused of crimes against the se­cre­tive, to­tal­i­tar­ian regime.

Otto Warm­bier, 22, had faced a 15-year prison sen­tence. His par­ents — Fred and Cindy Warm­bier of Wy­oming, Ohio — an­nounced his re­lease, which was later con­firmed by Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son.

“Otto has left North Korea. He is on [a] 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,” the Warm­biers said in a state­ment re­ported by CNN.

A source close to the fam­ily told CNN that Mr. Warm­bier had con­tracted bot­u­lism and was in “bad shape.”

“We want the world to know how we and our son have been bru­tal­ized and ter­ror­ized by the pariah regime,” the Warm­biers told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “We are so grate­ful that he will fi­nally be with peo­ple who love him.”

Mr. Tiller­son re­leased a state­ment: “At the di­rec­tion of the Pres­i­dent, the De­part­ment of State has se­cured the re­lease of Otto Warm­bier from North Korea. Mr. Warm­bier is en route to the United States, where he will be re­united with his fam­ily. The De­part­ment of State con­tin­ues to have dis­cus­sions with the DPRK re­gard­ing three other U.S. cit­i­zens re­ported de­tained.”

DPRK stands for the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Korea, the of­fi­cial name of North Korea.

The North still holds three other Amer­i­cans. Busi­ness­man Kim Dong-chul was ar­rested in Oc­to­ber 2015 and ac­cused of es­pi­onage. Two aca­demics — Kim Sang-duk, who was ar­rested April 22, and Kim Hak-song, who was ar­rested May 6, — have been charged with “hos­tile acts” both worked at the Py­ongyang Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy.

The State De­part­ment of­fered no com­ment on Mr. Warm­bier’s health or the cir­cum­stances of his re­lease, say­ing its de­ci­sion to re­main silent was out of re­spect for the fam­ily’s pri­vacy.

News of Mr. Warm­bier’s re­lease came hours af­ter for­mer NBA player Den­nis Rod­man landed in Py­ongyang, his fifth trip to North Korea since 2013. He told re­porters that he’s vis­it­ing to “see some friends and have a good time.”

Mr. Rod­man is the only Amer­i­can to have spent sub­stan­tial time with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The con­tro­ver­sial NBA Hall of Famer also has an es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Trump, hav­ing ap­peared twice on Mr. Trump’s for­mer re­al­ity TV se­ries “The Celebrity Ap­pren­tice.”

There is no in­di­ca­tion that Mr. Rod­man’s visit is re­lated to Mr. Warm­bier’s re­lease or that Mr. Rod­man will dis­cuss the re­lease of the other Amer­i­cans. He told re­porters in Bei­jing that it is “not my pur­pose right now.”

Re­spond­ing to a ques­tion from The As­so­ci­ated Press about whether Mr. Trump is aware of his visit, Mr. Rod­man said, “Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here try­ing to ac­com­plish some­thing that we both need.”

The United States has no for­mal diplo­matic re­la­tions with North Korea. The State De­part­ment strongly ad­vises against U.S. cit­i­zens trav­el­ing to the iso­lated na­tion, but Amer­i­cans can se­cure tourist visas if they travel with an or­ga­nized tour group and are ac­com­pa­nied by North Korean gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

Mr. Warm­bier had em­ployed the ser­vices of a Chi­nese-based tour com­pany to visit the coun­try in De­cem­ber 2015. He was de­tained in Jan­uary 2016 by North Korean of­fi­cials at Py­ongyang air­port while pre­par­ing to de­part.

He was charged with com­mit­ting “hos­tile acts” for al­legedly try­ing to steal a pro­pa­ganda poster from his ho­tel un­der the di­rec­tion of the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion and church groups as­so­ci­ated with the CIA.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Otto Warm­bier, a for­mer Univer­sity of Vir­ginia stu­dent, was med­i­cally evac­u­ated from North Korea on Tues­day.

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