Update: The Washington Post reports that Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year.
A United States citizen who has been imprisoned in North Korea for over a year is coming home. Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, had been serving a 15-year prison sentence. Warmbier was sentenced in March 2016 after a one hour trial determined that he was guilty of theft.
Warmbier had attempted to steal a propaganda banner of the North Korean government while he was visiting the country. Warmbier claimed in a news conference that he was offered, by a member of an Ohio church, a used car worth $10,000 in exchange for the banner.
The North Korean government declared that Warmbier’s actions were in line with the United States’ “hostile policy” towards the nation.
In a May 2017 interview, Warmbier’s family said that they had only received one letter from their son since he was arrested in January 2016. The family hoped that diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea would one day improve so that they could see their son.
“I don’t really go into how I feel about this thing,” Fred Warmbier said at the time. “I want my kid home. He doesn’t deserve this.”
In a statement to reporters, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that he secured the release of Warmbier at the request of President Donald Trump.
“At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,” Tillerson said.
“Mr. Warmbier is en route to the U.S. where he will be reunited with his family.”