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US student detained in North Korea dies days after release

June 20, 2017 08:38 IST

Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old college student who returned to the United States last week after 17 months of detention in North Korea, died on Monday afternoon.

He had suffered severe brain damage during his captivity.

The Trump administration placed intense pressure on Pyongyang to release Warmbier when they learned of his condition.

“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 2:20 pm,” his family said in a statement said, the CNN reported.

“We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. 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,” it added.

US President Trump shared his condolences with the family immediately, describing their son as ‘North Korea’s latest victim’.

In a statement, the US president 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,” the statement went on to add.

Warmbier had not spoken or moved in any purposeful way since his return, a condition his doctors called “unresponsive wakefulness” also known as persistent vegetative state. He had suffered significant brain damage during his imprisonment.

Otto Warmbier was a University of Virginia student when he was detained in January 2016. He had signed up for a trip to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours travel group. It was to be a brief stay followed by a visit to Beijing.

But as he tried to depart from Pyongyang’s airport, he was stopped in security for stealing a political poster from a restricted floor in his hotel, an act he admitted to and later sentenced to hard labour in prison for 15 years.

Upon his release, North Korean officials blamed his condition on botulism -- a severe form of food poisoning which they said he contracted while in their custody.

-- With inputs from Agencies

Source: ANI