Former North Korea detainee and US college student Otto Warmbier is in stable condition but has suffered a “severe neurological injury,” University of Cincinnati Medical Center spokeswoman Kelly Martin said Thursday.
The Warmbier family doesn’t believe North Korea’s explanation that the 22-year-old fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill shortly after he was sentenced in March 2016, Warmbier’s father told reporters Thursday.
“Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing a coma — and we don’t — there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition a secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long,” Fred Warmbier said during a news conference at southern Ohio’s Wyoming High School, where Otto had graduated.
Fred Warmbier appeared critical of the Obama administration’s handling of his son’s January 2016 detention, saying the family heeded the US government’s advice to take a low profile “without result.”
In contrast, he praised the Trump administration’s efforts: “They have our thanks for bringing Otto home.”
When asked whether President Obama could have done more, Fred Warmbier replied: “I think the results speak for themselves.”
Fred Warmbier called on North Korea to release other American detainees.
“There’s no excuse for the way the North Koreans treated our son. And no excuse for the way they’ve treated so many others. I call on them to release the other Americans being held,” he said. “No other family should have to endure what the Warmbiers have.”
Doctors will share further information about Otto Warmbier’s medical condition in a separate news conference Thursday afternoon, Martin said.
North Korea has broken its silence on the release of American detainee Otto Warmbier.
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student, who is currently in a coma, was freed for humanitarian reasons, according to a one-line report from a North Korean news agency Thursday.
Warmbier was freed earlier this week after being jailed for more than 17 months.
He was found guilty of committing a “hostile act” against North Korea in March 2016 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
That was the last time Warmbier was seen publicly — and about the same time he fell into a coma, his parents say they were told. A source close to the family said Warmbier contracted botulism last year.
“Otto is not in great shape right now,” Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea.”
Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement they learned of their son’s condition a week before his release. They plan to hold a news conference Thursday morning in their home state of Ohio.
Three other US detainees
Warmbier’s release coincided with basketball star Dennis Rodman’s latest visit to North Korea, though Michael Anton, a US national security spokesman, told CNN there is no connection between the two.
When asked by reporters if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea, Rodman said, “That’s not my purpose right now. … My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea.”
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 businessman named Kim Dong Chul.