NKorea frees US college student; family says he’s in coma

Kim Kwang Hyon
FILE – In this Feb. 29, 2016 file photo, American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. Secretary of State Tillerson said Tuesday, June 13, 2017, that North Korea released the jailed U.S. university student (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — North Korea has released an American college student who was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts, U.S. and North Korean officials said Tuesday. Otto Warmbier’s parents said he was in a coma and being medically evacuated.

The announcement on Warmbier’s release came as former NBA player Dennis Rodman was paying a return visit to Pyongyang. Rodman is one of few people to have met both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump. But Rodman said the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is “not my purpose right now.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the State Department had secured Warmbier’s release at the direction of the president. He said Warmbier, 22, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was en route to the U.S. where he will be reunited with his family. Tillerson made no mention of Rodman’s visit, and said the department would have no further comment on Warmbier and his condition, citing privacy concerns.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement to The Associated Press that their son is in a coma and flying home. They said they have been told their son has been in a coma since March 2016 — when he was last seen in public, at his trial — and they had learned of this only one week ago.

“We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime” in North Korea, they said. “We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him.”

A North Korean foreign ministry official said Warmbier was released and left the country Tuesday morning.

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