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Student released from North Korea has been in a coma for more than a year, family says

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The American college student who was released from North Korea is in a coma, his family said Tuesday in a statement.

"We 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. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him," the statement reads.

University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was sentenced in 2016 to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea after being accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel while visiting the country.

His release was confirmed by the U.S. State Department.

"At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea," the department announced in a statement attributed to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

"The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained," the statement said.

An administration official told ABC News that Tillerson called President Donald Trump at 8:35 a.m. ET to inform him that Warmbier was on a plane en route to the United States. The official said the last instruction Trump gave Tillerson was to "take care of Otto."

Warmbier was visiting North Korea as part of a tourist group arranged by Young Pioneer Tours, based in Xian, China. He was arrested on Jan. 2, 2016, at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on the last day of a five-day tour.

Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding him for a "hostile act" against the state.

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