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

A team of U.S. doctors have found "no sign of botulism" in the American student freed by North Korea after more than 15 months in captivity.

After thanking Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) for his support and assistance, Warmbier recounted how his son was freed.

North Korea said Thursday it released Warmbier over "humanitarian" reasons, its first official comment since he was returned to his home state of OH in a coma.

The North Koreans told them their son had botulism, and failed to recover from a sleeping pill they gave him - an explanation the Warmbiers reject.

The family has more questions than answers about what happened during Otto's detainment.

"We don't believe anything they (North Korea) say", said Fred Warmbier, who was wearing a sport coat that Otto Warmbier had worn during a confession to his crimes past year in North Korea that was broadcast.

Go Myong-Hyun, a researcher at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, told Agence France-Presse that it was unlikely North Korea would have intentionally put a detained United States citizen - valuable diplomatic bargaining chips for Pyongyang - into a coma. Joseph Yun, Washington's special envoy on North Korea, added they were working to secure their freedom as well.

If North Korea is to be believed, recently returned US prisoner Otto Warmbier is in a coma because of a mix of a sleeping pill and botulism, a bacterial infection that can lead to a coma if untreated.

He said he felt "anger that [Otto] was so brutally treated for so long" but was relieved his son was "now home in the arms of those who love him".

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They did say moving forward, the family requests details of Otto's care and prognosis not be released.

Otto was detained in North Korea on January 2, 2016 at the Pyongyang International Airport after visiting that country with Young Pioneer Tours.

Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, speaks during a news conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He was arrested and weeks later brought to North Korea's supreme court where he pleaded for mercy.

"Disbelief", is how Warmbier described his immediate reaction to being told last Tuesday that his son is in a coma.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement they learned of their son's condition a week before his release.

The family was "extremely grateful for their efforts and concern", Fred Warmbier said.

He said he and his wife grew frustrated with the lack of word about their son from former President Barack Obama's administration, which they said instructed them to keep a low profile to avoid upsetting the North Koreans.

  • Adam Floyd