American student Otto Warmbier has died six days after being brought back to the United States in a coma from North Korea where he was detained for 17 months.
The 22-year-old was returned to his family in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 13 from North Korea where he was arrested as a student for stealing a propaganda poster in January 2016.
He returned in a vegetative state, unable to communicate with his family and with devastating brain loss. North Korean authorities blamed his condition on a bout of food poisoning which they said he suffered while imprisoned and released him on ‘humanitarian grounds’.
On Monday, his family blamed North Korean dictator Kim Jon Un for his death.
‘The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today,’ Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.
‘When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th, he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands.
‘He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance on his face changed – he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.
We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too,’ they said.
Otto was a student at the University of Virginia when he traveled in a group to Pyongyang.
As he attempted to leave the country to return home on January 2, he was arrested and detained at the airport.
North Korean authorities accused him of committing a hostile act against the country by stealing a propaganda poster from the hotel he was staying in.
In a statement released on Monday afternoon, President Trump said: ‘Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing.
‘There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto’s family and friends and all who loved him.
‘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.’
Vice President Pence said his death served as a ‘tragic example’ of the country’s ‘disregard for human life.’