Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia honors student who went to North Korea in January 2016 for a five-day tour, was flown to University of Cincinnati in a coma after a top U.S. official reportedly visited the regime after hearing of his condition.
Warmbier was charged with an undefined “hostile act” as he tried to leave the Pyongyang airport over a year ago. Two months later, he was convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was finally released after being detained for 17 months.
North Korean officials claimed the coma resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill.
Other reports suggested something much more sinister took place.
CBS News reported that a hospital spokeswoman said Thursday that the 22-year-old student suffered a “severe neurological injury.”
The New York Times reported that United States obtained intelligence reports recently that indicated Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten.
Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, told Fox News that his son went into a coma the day after he was sentenced. He said Otto was “terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea,” adding that he and his wife, Cindy had just learned of their son’s grave condition last week.
Otto is now in stable condition at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Spokesman for UC Medical Center Sherri Kirk said Wednesday there were no updates on his condition.
There are reportedly three other Americans being held in North Korea. The status on their releases remain unclear as Washington and Pyongyang inch closer to conflict over the increasing nuclear threat posed by North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un.
North Korean cannot continue to use Americans as political pawns. Thank goodness the State Department under President Trump secured Otto’s release, but more must done to rescue other Americans suffering abroad in the hands of foreign enemies.
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