American student released from N.Korea dies

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 20, 2017 11:19 hrs

Washington, June 20 (IANS) Otto F. Warmbier, the US student who was released from a North Korean prison last week after spending 17 months in captivity and more than a year in a coma, has died, his family said.

The University of Virginia honours student's parents, Fred and Cindy, who live in Wyoming, Ohio, said in a statement that their son, 22, had "completed his journey home" and "was at peace" when he died on Monday at 2.20 p.m., reports The New York Times.

"When Otto returned to Cincinnati on June 13, he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands," the couple wrote.

"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."

In response, President Donald Trump issued a terse statement condemning North Korea, which is still holding three Americans hostage.

"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."

"The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim," Trump added.

Warmbier, a onetime high school football player and homecoming king, was travelling in Beijing in December 2015 when he signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea with a Chinese company that advertised "budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from".

The company, Young Pioneer Tours, said Tuesday that it would no longer take Americans to North Korea because the "assessment of risk" was too high.

Warmbier was detained at the Pyongyang airport in January 2016, charged with a "hostile act" against the country's authoritarian government and convicted less than two months later of trying to steal a propaganda poster, after he delivered a tearful, televised confession, reports The New York Times.

Upon his arrival in the US, Warmbier was taken immediately to the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre, where doctors said that two M.R.I. scans sent by the North Koreans indicated that he had sustained a catastrophic brain injury shortly after his conviction.

The doctors said he had "extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain," most likely caused by cardiopulmonary arrest that cut off the blood supply to his brain.

But they could not say what had caused the initial injury.

--IANS

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