North Korea releases comatose Otto Warmbier

United Methodist Bishop Gregory Palmer offered prayers for Otto Warmbier, who was released from a North Korea prison in a coma.

The West Ohio Area bishop expressed gratitude for the “long overdue release” of the young man who was arrested in 2016 and charged with stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel.

“I ask for your continuing prayers for Otto and his family during this difficult time,” Palmer said.

At the time of his arrest he stated he was bringing the poster to a church member from Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Ohio, as a “trophy” from his trip.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement June 13 that Warmbier was on his way home. Tillerson said “out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family, we have no further comment.”

The Department of the State continues to have discussions with North Korea regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained.

According to news reports, Warmbier has been in a coma for over a year. He arrived back in the United States June 14 and was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

The family has been told Warmbier contracted botulism last year and slipped into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, released a statement saying they and their son have been “brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korea.”

Warmbier, who had traveled to Pyongyang on a trip organized by Young Pioneer Tours, was arrested on Jan. 2, 2016,  at the airport as he was about to board a plane. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He was student at the University of Virginia at the time of his arrest.

The North Korean government alleged that the young man was encouraged to commit the “hostile act” by a member of Friendship United Methodist Church, a secretive university organization and even the CIA.

Gilbert is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests. 

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