US student Otto Warmbier dies a week after North Korea release

Warmbier suffered brain damage during 18 months he served of 15-year sentence

Otto Frederick Warmbier has died after his return to the US, following his detention in North Korea. Photograph: Reuters/Kyodo

Otto Frederick Warmbier has died after his return to the US, following his detention in North Korea. Photograph: Reuters/Kyodo

 

Otto Warmbier, the American student who was released from North Korea last week, has died, his parents have announced.

In a statement released on Monday, the Warmbier family said: “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.”

Mr Warmbier, a University of Virginia student, was arrested in North Korea in early 2016 and detained for a year and a half. He had travelled to the closed communist country as part of a trip arranged in Beijing.

Mr Warmbier was flown back to the US last week after serving nearly 18 months of a 15-year jail sentence. He was being treated at the University of Cincinnati medical centre since his return home.

“When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands” his parents said in a statement released on Monday afternoon. “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.”

‘Brutal state’

Last week, his father, Fred Warmbier denounced North Korea as a “brutal” and “terroristic” pariah state as he confirmed that his son had suffered brain damage.

Mr Warmbier was arrested by North Korean authorities for allegedly tearing down a propaganda poster from his hotel room wall.

The tragedy is likely to deepen tensions between Washington and Pyongyang, at a difficult time in relations between the two countries.

US president Donald Trump has intensified criticism of North Korea since his election, amid growing concern in the United States over the country’s development of nuclear arsenal.