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Father doubts N Korea story on son’s coma

  • 15 June 2017
  • From the section Asia

Otto WarmbierImage copyright Reuters
Image caption Otto Warmbier’s parents say they went 15 months without hearing from or about their son

The father of a US student freed by North Korea this week says he does not believe the regime’s explanation for his son’s coma.

The regime said 22-year-old Otto Warmbier’s medical condition was caused last year by botulism and a sleeping pill he was given after his trial.

But Fred Warmbier said his son had been treated “brutally”.

He spoke as an Ohio hospital said Otto had suffered a “severe neurological injury” and is in a stable condition.

“We went for 15 months without a word from or about Otto,” Mr Warmbier said of his son at Thursday’s press conference.

“It was only a week ago that the North Korean government now claims that he was in a coma for almost all of that time.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Medical personnel were seen transferring a person believed to be Mr Warmbier to an ambulance at an airport in Cincinnati on Tuesday night

“Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing the coma – and we don’t – there’s no excuse for a civilised nation to have kept his condition secret and to have denied him top notch medical care.”

How harsh is prison in North Korea?

Otto Warmbier, an economics student from the University of Virginia, was arrested in January 2016 while visiting North Korea as a tourist.

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Media captionUS student Otto Warmbier said he was “a poor scapegoat” before he was jailed in 2016

He was given a 15-year prison sentence for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

Fred Warmbier also appeared to critcise the Obama administration for failing to help secure his son’s release.

“When Otto was first taken we were advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release,” he said.

“We did so without result. Earlier this year Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over.”

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