Otto Warmbier, the US student who was released from North Korea with severe neurological damage last week, has died.
The 22-year-old’s death was confirmed in a family statement via the hospital he was staying in.
It reads: ‘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.’
Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in March 2016 for stealing a propaganda poster.
Right before the University of Virginia student was flown back, the regime revealed he had been in a coma since the day after he was sentenced.
The family thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treating him, but said: ‘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.’
Doctors said he returned with severe brain damage, but it wasn’t clear what caused it.
Ohio’s US senators sharply criticized North Korea soon after his release.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman, of the Cincinnati area, said North Korea should be ‘universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior’.
Three Americans remain held in North Korea. The US government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.
At the time of Warmbier’s release, a White House official said Joseph Yun, the US envoy on North Korea, had met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway the previous month. Such direct consultations between the two governments are rare because they don’t have formal diplomatic relations.
At the meeting, North Korea agreed that Swedish diplomats could visit all four American detainees. Yun learned about Warmbier’s condition in a meeting a week before the release the North Korean ambassador at the UN in New York.
Yun then dispatched to North Korea and visited Warmbier June 12 with two doctors and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds.