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Thursday
Jun152017

Father of US student released by N. Korea says son was 'brutally treated'

Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images(WYOMING, Ohio) -- Appearing before reporters in the coat his son wore during his trial in North Korea last year, the father of Otto Warmbier said it was "bittersweet" to have his son home after being imprisoned by the hermetic regime for more than 17 months.

Fred Warmbier explained that he was relieved Otto was "now home in the arms of those who love him" but he also felt "anger that he was so brutally treated for so long," Warmbier said during a press conference at Wyoming High School in Ohio where Otto had graduated.

The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was medically evacuated from North Korea and flown to Cincinnati late Tuesday. He was then transported to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he is in a coma.

"I knelt down by his side and I hugged him and I told him I missed him and I was so glad that he made it home," Fred Warmbier said. "These things are tough to process, but he’s with us and we’re trying to make him comfortable."

Earlier on Thursday, University of Cincinnati Medical Center spokeswoman Kelly Martin told reporters that "Otto is in stable condition but he has suffered a severe neurological injury." The hospital will provide an update on his condition at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Fred Warmbier said he and his wife, Cindy Warmbier, worked tirelessly for the release of their son, whom he said was detained at an airport in Pyongyang in January 2016. Warmbier had visited North Korea as part of a tour organized by a China-based company.

After a one-hour trial in March 2016, Otto was convicted of attempting to steal a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

The North Korean regime deemed Otto a "war criminal" and "brutalized and terrorized" him during his detainment, his father said.

Fred Warmbier said his family doesn't believe North Korea's explanation that Otto fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill shortly after his sentencing.

"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," he added.

Fred Warmbier revealed that President Donald Trump called him Wednesday night to ask about Otto and the rest of his family. He said the president was "very candid" during the telephone call and told him Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other U.S. officials worked hard to negotiate Otto's release.

“It was a really nice conversation. It was kind," Fred Warmbier said. "To be honest, I had avoided conversations with him because to what end I'm dealing with my son. But I did take the call and it was gracious and it was nice, and I thank him for that."

When asked by a reporter whether he believes President Barack Obama's administration could have done more to secure Otto's release, Fred Warmbier replied simply, "I think the results speak for themselves."

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