An American college student who was released from a North Korean prison is finally home but in a coma and undergoing treatment at an Ohio hospital where he was taken shortly after arriving on U.S. soil. Warmbier was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor in North Korea for alleged anti-state acts.
An airplane carrying Otto Warmbier, who is from Ohio, landed in Cincinnati late Tuesday night. The 22-year-old was then taken by ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. A hospital spokeswoman said Warmbier's family was expected to hold a news conference Thursday morning at Wyoming High School.
Securing Warmbier's release "was a big priority" for President Donald Trump, who worked "very hard and very closely" with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The detention of Americans, often sentenced to draconian prison sentences for seemingly small offenses in the totalitarian nation, has compounded tensions between Washington and Pyongyang. Three Americans remain in custody.
Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea's Supreme Court in March 2016. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor for subversion after he tearfully confessed that he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.
Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, said they were told he has been in a coma since his trial, when he was last seen in public, and they had learned of this only one week ago. "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime" in North Korea, Warmbier's parents said. "We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him."
A White House official said Trump had instructed Tillerson to take all appropriate measures to secure the release of Americans held in North Korea. The official referred to them as "hostages." Tillerson said the Department of State was continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens imprisoned there.