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Otto Warmbier, US student held in North Korea for 17 months, dies
Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student who was held in North Korea for 17 months and who was released last week, died Monday.
"It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died at 2:20pm," Warmbier's parents said in statement Monday, according to a Ohio-based paper.
His parents said Warmbier, who was flown home last Tuesday, was not responding to verbal commands nor was he able to see. His parents previously announced he had been in a coma for more than a year, which Pyongyang blamed on a case of botulism, an assertion U.S. doctors doubted.
Warmbier's parents blamed North Korea for his death.
"Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today," they said.
They said while their son arrived looking "almost anguished," his face changed to one of "peace" the day he died.
"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 believed he could sense that," Fred and Cindy Warmbier wrote.
North Korea's high court sentenced Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, to 15 years in prison with hard labor last year after he allegedly tried to steal a political poster.
The court charged that he had committed a offense "pursuant to the U.S. government's hostile policy toward [the North], in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist."
His parents said they chose to "focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person."
"It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost - future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion form the communities that he touched - Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two - that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family," they continued.
His parents also thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for their "wonderful professionals."
Doctors who examined Warmbier after his release said he suffered significant brain damage while abroad, though they did not name a cause.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said North Korea is a murderer as well as a "threat" to the Asia-Pacific region.
"North Korea is threatening its neighbors, destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region, and rapidly developing the technology to strike the American homeland with nuclear weapons. Now it has escalated to brutalizing Americans, including three other citizens currently imprisoned in North Korea. The United States of America cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers," McCain said in a statement.
Rep. Mike Turner (R), also from Warmbier's home state of Ohio, also condemned the North Korean government for causing his death.
"His life was taken too soon by the abusive and repressive regime in North Korea, a threat to our country we will continue to fight," Turner said.
President Trump said he and the first lady "offer our deepest condolences to the family Otto Warmbier" in a statement on Monday.
"Otto's fate deepens my Administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency," Trump said. "The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim."
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman (R) was also among those who offered his condolences to Warmbier's family.
"Otto Warmbier was such a promising young man. He was kind, generous and accomplished. He had all the talent you could ever ask for and a bright future ahead of him. His passing today is a loss for Ohio and for all of us. Jane and I are lifting up the Warmbier family in our prayers at this difficult time, and we are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of this remarkable young Ohioan," he said.
- Updated: 7:10 p.m.