North Korea releases student from labour camp on 'humanitarian grounds'
Otto Frederick Warmbier (C), a University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea since early January, is taken to North Korea's top court in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released by Kyodo March 16, 2016. Photograph: (Reuters)
North Korea said Thursday it had released 22-year-old US student Otto Warmbier "on humanitarian grounds", state media reported, two days after he was evacuated from Pyongyang after falling into a coma while imprisoned in a labour camp.
"Otto Frederick Warmbier, who had been in hard labour, was sent back home on June 13, 2017 on humanitarian grounds according to the adjudication made on the same day by the Central Court of the DPRK," the state-run Korean Central News Agency said in a statement.
In a statement to CNN, his parents described the condition of their son: "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.
"We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terorrized by the pariah regime in North Korea. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that his department "secured" the student's release in talks with North Korea, al Jazeera reports. They are pushing for the release of three more Americans to be freed.
Warmbier's parents were told that their son was given a sleeping pill shortly after his trial in March last year, and that he never woke up from it. Meanwhile, a Washington Post report says his parents were told he may have been infected by botulism while in jail.
The release comes 18 months into a 15-year sentence. Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was caught stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel wall while on a school trip. He was detained at the airport in January 2016.