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N. Korea says it freed U.S. student over humanitarian reasons

26 June 2017

Just-released North Korea detainee Otto Warmbier suffered a "severe neurological injury", a hospital official said, as the college student's dad blasted the regime that returned him in a cryptic coma.

The 22-year-old was released from North Korea Tuesday and admitted to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where a rep says he has experienced a "severe neurological injury", reports CNN.

Fred Warmbier says he doesn't believe the explanation from his son's captors in North Korea, who have said Otto Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. "I call on them to release the other Americans".

"We don't believe anything they (North Korea) say", said Fred Warmbier, who was wearing a sport coat that Otto Warmbier had worn during a confession to his crimes a year ago in North Korea that was broadcast.

According to doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Warmbier suffered extensive brain damage during his imprisonment and shows no outward signs of botulism.

The team treating him were to deliver a full medical update later in the day.

Tests did not turn up evidence of botulism, which the North Koreans had claimed Warmbier contracted before being given a sleeping pill and not waking up, doctor Brandon Foreman said.

Warmbier said his son "fought to stay alive" while in captivity since January 2016. Warmbier arrived in OH after being released by North Korea, where he was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts. A senior American official tells the New York Times that Warmbier was repeatedly beaten while in North Korean custody.

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The university student, who had been on a tourist trip, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, a punishment the U.S. decried as far out of proportion to his alleged crime, accusing the North of using him as a political pawn. "They are brutal and awful", said Mr Warmbier.

Otto Warmbier (WORM'-bir) was in a coma when he landed in Cincinnati late Tuesday.

Voice breaking and tears in his eyes, the father noted he was wearing the same off-white jacket his son had worn during his North Korean court appearance, adding he was "proud" of his son's adventurous spirit.

He returned home to OH on Tuesday in a coma after being "brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime", his family said in a statement.

"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.

He said he and his wife grew frustrated with the lack of word about their son from former president Barack Obama's administration, which they said instructed them to keep a low profile to avoid upsetting the North Koreans.

Warmbier was freed earlier this week after being jailed for more than 17 months.

N. Korea says it freed U.S. student over humanitarian reasons