Otto Warmbier, released to U.S. from North Korea, non-responsive to speech

Posted June 19, 2017

The university student, who had been on a tourist trip, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, a punishment the U.S. decried as far out of proportion to his alleged crime, accusing the North of using him as a political pawn.

Warmbier's team of doctors said they believe his brain injury was not caused by head trauma, but possibly by cardiopulmonary arrest triggered by respiratory failure.

The doctors said Warmbier is in a "state of unresponsive wakefulness" and showed no sign of "understanding language" or "awareness of his surroundings".

"I'm proud of Otto, and the courage he showed by going to North Korea", Otto's father Fred Warmbier said at a press conference on Thursday, wearing the same jacket Otto wore when he appeared in a North Korean courtroom.

Otto Warmbier's return has lent support to voices calling for a travel ban on North Korea, which has a long record of holding United States nationals to use them as a bargaining chip.

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North Korean authorities said the coma was a result of botulism and Warmbier taking a sleeping pill after the trial.

AP also said that "doctors treating him in the United States said they found no evidence of botulism, but did find severe brain damage consistent with losing oxygen to the brain". Regardless, he said there's "no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long".

For his alleged crime, Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. "I don't know what being in shock is, but I'm pretty sure I was", the father told assembled reporters in Cincinnati. (Reuters) "We've been we've been brutalized for the last 18 months with misinformation, no information", "Do I think the past administration could have done more?"

More than any words that would be used to describe Warmbier's condition in clinical terms by doctors and government officials, Woolston's photographs told the stark story of his medical state with profound impact. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday the considering a ban on American travel to the isolated authoritarian state headed by dictator Kim Jong Un.

But the video, released Thursday by Otto Warmbier's brother Austin Warmbier, has become incredibly important to his family.

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The elder Warmbier praised actions by President Donald Trump's administration to secure his son's release after the Obama administration had encouraged the family to take a low profile to avoid angering the North Korean regime.

"The last time the world saw him he was a virile, young man", Woolston said. She says there are plenty of restrictions on what Americans can do in countries that face USA sanctions - like North Korea or Iran.

Danny Gratton told the Washington Post he met Warmbier in Beijing in December 2015 on a tour to North Korea.

Meanwhile, the background process of how Warmbier got to be released brings attention to the possibility of dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on the North Korean nuclear issue.

The other Americans held by Pyongyang are Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak-song, academics who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and a businessman named Kim Dong Chul. "That's not my goal right now", he said.

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