Otto Warmbier, a college student from America, have finally been released from a detention center in North Korea. He was held for more than seventeen months and has been in a coma for over a year of that sentence, according to his parents.
22-year-old Warmbier apparently contracted botulism and has been in a coma since March 2016, something his parents learned just one week ago. While he is not in great shape, he is on a Medivac flight back to the United States and his distraught parents. Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State, has confirmed his Warmbier’s release in a public statement.
“We want the world to know how our son has been terrorized by the regime in North Korea,” stated his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier.
Otto Warmbier had toured North Korea and was waiting for a flight home from Pyongyang in January 2016 when he was detained by officials. The authorities stated that they had footage of Warmbier attempting to steal a political banner that was hanging at his hotel. He was seized and placed in custody immediately.
His next appearance was during a brief news conference that was organized by North Koreans directly before his trial. During this conference, Warmbier was emotional and confessed that he was lured by the administration of the United States to commit his criminal act in North Korea. It is not certain if he was speaking for himself or if he was forced to speak by officials.
He was last seen during his trial in March 2016, which lasted only one hour. North Korea accused the University of Virginia student of “hostile acts” against the current regime and suggested that he was urged to do so by a church from Ohio, the CIA, and a secret organization from the University.
Warmbier was quickly found guilty by the court and sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. After this, he has not been seen publicly again.
His case stayed mostly out of the public eye until May of 2017, when his parents decided to speak up about their son. They had an interview with CNN on the third of May, stating that they had not heard from or seen Otto since his confession in March of the previous year.
“With tensions so high [between the US and North Korea], we’ve felt that we needed to talk about Otto,” stated Cindy Warmbier. She stated that she felt like they “needed to put a face to the name” of Otto Warmbier and the detainment of Americans by North Korea.
Otto Warmbier was not the only American who was being held in North Korea. He shared that distinction with Kim Dong Chul, a businessman, and Kim Hak-song and Kim Sang Duk, two academics who had been working at the University of Science and Technology in Pyongyang.
Tillerson has stated that they are discussing these cases with the North Korean Regime but that they do not currently have any diplomatic missions in the area. The fates of those still imprisoned have been uncertain as relations between the United States and North Korea have become tenser.
There have been ten tests conducted in North Korea so far in 2017, leading to sixteen missiles being launched. Experts have stated that each launch conducted by the regime is inching North Korea towards its goal of creating a nuclear weapon that can reach to the United States. North Korea firmly believes that their missile program is the only way they can keep Washington from attempting to overthrow Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un’s regime.
Even with the high tensions between the two countries, the Warmbier parents have felt encouraged by United States President Donald Trump and his willingness to improve the current relationship with North Korea.