North Korea on Tuesday released an American student imprisoned there and sentenced to hard labor, the State Department announced.
The University of Virginia student, Otto Warmbier, had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor after being convicted in Pyongyang for acts against the state.
Warmbier’s announced release came as former basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea for the latest of his visits to the isolated country. As he traveled, he was asked whether he planned to advocate on behalf of four Americans detained in North Korea, and he said that that was not his “purpose.”
“At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement. “Mr. Warmbier is en route to the U.S. where he will be reunited with his family.”
The Washington Post reported from Tokyo that Warmbier was in a coma and being medically evacuated.
Warmbier, 22, was last seen tearfully begging for mercy in a video on the day of his conviction in March 2016 after an hourlong trial. His alleged offense apparently stemmed from having taken a political poster from a building wall in Pyongyang.
“The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK [North Korea] regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained,” Tillerson added.
He said the department would have no further comment “out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family.”