Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was convicted of carrying out “hostile acts” in March 2016 and sentenced to hard labor within the dictatorial country, has died at age 22. He was returned stateside last week in an “unresponsive wakeful” state that puzzled doctors.
Warmbier’s plight began when he allegedly stole pro-government items from his hotel in an apparent attempt to show them off at home. Instead, he was convicted of theft and forced to carry out a sentence of 15 years of hard labor for his supposed crime.
Pyongyang decided to send Warmbier back to the United States early, but when he arrived, doctors quickly determined that he was suffering from “extensive brain damage.” North Korean officials claimed that he had contracted botulism during his time in North Korea, but American doctors were not able to find any evidence leading to such a diagnosis.
The Warmbier family claims that Otto was “unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands.” The North Korean government has declined to offer any explanation that would allow Warmbier’s family to find out exactly how the young man’s condition deteriorated so dramatically.
In a statement, the Warmbier family expressed gratitude to those who helped Otto in his final days, as well as condemnation for the North Koreans who allowed their son to wither away.
“We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, the awful torturous treatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”
President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump offered their condolences to the Warmbier family, with the commander in chief vowing to curb the threat posed by North Korea.
“Otto’s fate deeps 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,” Trump said. “The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.”