North Korea releases detained US student ‘in coma’

North Korea releases detained US student ‘in coma’

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American student Otto Warmbier speaks to reporters in Pyongyang, North Korea. (2016)

Two Ohio senators are denouncing North Korea after a resident of their state was said to be in a coma after being released from a prison in the country.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the release of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student.

Mr Warmbier was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labour for alleged anti-state acts. Mr Warmbier’s family said in a statement that he is in a coma and on his way home.

Republican Senator Rob Portman says North Korea should be “universally condemned for its abhorrent behaviour”. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Cleveland said the country’s “despicable actions … must be condemned.”

The parents of the 22-year-old college student said he is on a Medivac flight on his way home.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said they have been told their son has been in a coma since March 2016, and they had learned of this only one week ago.

They said “we want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalised and terrorised by the pariah regime” in North Korea.

They also said they are grateful Mr Warmbier “will finally be with people who love him”.

The president of the University of Virginia said the school is “deeply concerned and saddened” to learn that their student is in a coma.

Mr Warmbier was supposed to graduate from the university in May.

University president Teresa Sullivan said in a statement that the school is relieved to hear Mr Warmbier was released, but is concerned about his condition.

She said the university community has his family in its thoughts and prayers as he returns home.

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