North Korea

North Korea prisoner’s dad isn’t buying Pyongyang’s coma explanation

The father of Otto Warmbier, the American college student held by North Korea for 17 months, isn’t buying Pyongyang’s explanation for how his son ended up in a coma.

Speaking to reporters near the family’s home outside Cincinnati, Fred Warmbier offered few details about his son’s condition. A spokesperson from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said 22-year-old Otto was in stable condition but had suffered “a severe neurological injury.”

The elder Warmbier gave a press conference Thursday wearing the same jacket that his son was photographed wearing at his last public appearance in March 2016, when he delivered a tearful — and likely scripted — confession to stealing a propaganda banner from his hotel in Pyongyang. Otto Warmbier was subsequently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor and reportedly fell into a coma around the same time.

His family was told that his condition was the result of botulism, a rare bacterial infection, and taking a sleeping pill. North Korea released Otto on Tuesday, purportedly for “humanitarian reasons.”

“They do not do this out of the kindness of their hearts,” said Fred Warmbier. “[North Korea] does not do anything out of the kindness of their hearts.”

Warmbier added that he doesn’t believe he’ll ever find out what really happened.

“There is no excuse for the way the North Koreans have treated our son,” Warmbier said. “I call on them to release the other Americans.” North Korea currently has three other Americans in custody, two of whom were detained earlier this year.

When asked if he thought President Barack Obama could have done more to help his son, Fred Warmbier replied, “The results speak for themselves.”

He said that the Obama administration told them to “keep a low profile” and that earlier this year he and his wife decided that the time for “strategic patience was over.” The family began speaking out about their son’s case soon after President Donald Trump took office.

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