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June 28, 2017

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US student freed from North Korea in coma dies

WASHINGTON — The U.S. student freed from North Korea in a coma last week died Monday, his family said in a statement.

Otto Warmbier, 22, died at 2:20 p.m. (1820 GMT) surrounded by his family, his parents said in a statement released by the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

"Unfortunately the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today," they said.

Warmbier had suffered significant brain damage and had been in "a state of unresponsive wakefulness" since arriving at the hospital in Ohio after what North Korean officials said was more than a year in a coma, doctors said.

His parents thanked the medical professionals at the hospital who they said had done everything they could for their son.

In response to the news, U.S. President Donald Trump condemned North Korean "brutality" at the White House, after a series of meetings with the technology executives and academic leaders.

"He spent a year and a half in North Korea. A lot of bad things happened, but at least we got him home to be with his parents where they were so happy to see him even though he was in very tough condition," Trump said.

A statement issued later by the White House quoted Trump saying he and first lady Melania Trump sent their condolences to the Warmbier family and noting the tragic loss of a "child in the prime of life."

The statement said Warmbier's fate "deepens my administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency."

Warmbier's parents said since his return to Ohio their son had been unable to speak, see or react to verbal commands and appeared "very uncomfortable - almost anguished."

"Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed — he was at peace. He was at home and we believe he could sense that," Fred and Cindy Warmbier said.

Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was on a tour of North Korea early last year when he allegedly tried to steal a propaganda banner from his hotel and was charged with hostile acts against the state.

He was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp after a one-hour trial in March 2016.

He was released Tuesday amid ongoing U.S. diplomatic efforts and just days after North Korean officials shared his medical condition.

Doctors last week declined to speculate on what may have caused Warmbier's condition. Tests failed to 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 Thursday.

The State Department last week declined to speculate on potential ramifications were Warmbier to die.

Efforts continue to secure the release of three other Americans being held by the North Korean regime.

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