University of Virginia student, held for 17 months in prison with hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda poster, had been in a coma since returning home
Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student who was returned to the US in a coma last week after 17 months as a prisoner in North Korea, has died in a Cincinnati hospital, his parents announced.
“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2.20pm,” Fred and Cindy Warmbier wrote in a statement on Monday.
They added that his death had been inevitable as a result of “the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans”.
Warmbier was arrested at Pyongyang airport in January 2016 and sentenced in March to 15 years hard labour for allegedly taking a propaganda poster from his hotel room, where he had been staying as part of an organised tour.
The University of Virginia student wept at his sentencing, saying: “I have made the worst mistake of my life.” The trial reportedly lasted less than an hour.
He was medically evacuated from North Korea last Tuesday and flown to the US. Doctors from the University of Cincinnati medical centre, where Warmbier was taken, said he had suffered injuries related to cardiopulmonary arrest and was in a state of unresponsive wakefulness. Scans showed extensive loss in all regions of Warmbier’s brain.
“When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on 13 June he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands,” his parents said in their statement. “He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.”
The Warmbier family thanked the doctors for their efforts on Monday but added: “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North…