Otto Warmbier, the US student released in a coma last week after nearly 18 months in detention in North Korea, died on Monday, prompting President Donald Trump to slam the “brutal regime” in Pyongyang.
The 22-year-old was medically evacuated to the United States last Tuesday, suffering from severe brain damage. He died six days later surrounded by relatives in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.
“The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible,” the family said in a statement announcing Warmbier’s death.
Warmbier was on a tourist trip when he was arrested and sentenced in March last year to 15 years hard labor for stealing a political poster from a North Korean hotel, a punishment US officials decried as far out of proportion to his alleged crime.
Trump slammed Pyongyang following news of his death.
“It’s a brutal regime,” he said during a White House event. “Bad things happened but at least we got him home to his parents.”
In a separate written statement, Trump said, “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.”
Added Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: “We hold North Korea accountable for Otto Warmbier’s unjust imprisonment, and demand the release of three other Americans who have been illegally detained.”
Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who spent almost two years in a North Korean prison before he was released in November 2014, issued a statement asking people to pray for Warmbier’s family.
“For Otto to be returned to the US in the state he was in – and then for him to die because of it – is not only an outrage, but it is a tragedy for his entire family,” Bae wrote.
“This did not have to happen and should never happen…