North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier returns to the USA

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Tillerson said the State Department secured his release at Trump's direction, and a spokeswoman was firm in saying Rodman's trip had nothing to do with Warmbier's release.

The curious timing of Warmbier's return to Cincinnati is nearly as startling as Rodman's continued flirtation with Kim and his Communist regime.

Mr Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

Surrounded by North Korean guards, Warmbier delivered a highly scripted "confession" that appeared to have been written for him, and after an hourlong sham trial in March 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years. He has not been seen in public since he was sentenced in March 2016. White House deputy press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters aboard Air Force One Tuesday night that "bringing Otto home was a big priority for the president".

In fact, Otto Warmbier has been in a coma since shortly after his trial.

Thus, nothing more than a New Year's Eve college prank was elevated to phony charges that Warmbier had committed an act tantamount to trying to overthrow the government. He is on medevac flight on his way home.

In Wyoming, resident Amy Mayer said news of his release had sent waves of shock and joy through the neighborhood.

As of this writing, little of substance is known about the condition of the 22-year-old former University of Virginia student, who was just released by North Korea after 17 months in prison upon conviction of a crime against the state during a visit there.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that Warmbier had been freed. His parents say he's in a coma.

She tells reporters, "we are grateful and thankful" for Warmbier's release, but says it is "too soon" to talk about dialogue between the USA and North Korea.

The release came after Joseph Yun, the State Department's special envoy on North Korea, travelled to Pyongyang and demanded his freedom on "humanitarian grounds", capping a flurry of secret diplomatic contacts, a U.S. official said. Such meetings are unusual because the two governments do not have diplomatic relations. The North Korean account, the family said, claimed Warmbier then fell into a coma after being given a sleeping pill. Sweden represents USA diplomatic interests in North Korea.

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Richardson, also a former congressman, energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations, has always been involved in efforts to secure the release of prisoners and hostages, including those held by North Korea.

Yun then met last week with the North Korean ambassador at the U.N.in NY. He was evacuated on Tuesday.

North Korea has been a major irritant in the first few months of the Trump administration. Nauert said the last consular visit to Warmbier, by Swedish diplomats, was March 2.

University President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement that the school is relieved to hear Warmbier was released, but is concerned about his condition.

He, added: "North Korea should be universally condemned for its abhorrent behaviour". His parents said he's been in a coma for more than a year.

"We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime" in North Korea, Warmbier's parents said.

Warmbier said before his trial that he tried to steal the propaganda poster as a trophy for an acquaintance, who offered him a used auto worth $13,200 in exchange for the item. With concern mounting over Warmbier's deteriorating condition since the State Department learned of it in early June, a delegation arrived in Pyongyang on June 12 that included a State Department representative and a medical team.

Tillerson says that Warmbier is on his way back to the U.S.to be re-united with his family. It is imperative that the State Department continue its efforts to secure their release. It is unclear what the status of the other three American citizens held in North Korea is, but this process jump-started the expedited release of Warmbier.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman happened to arrive in North Korea for his fifth trip to the rogue state the same day Warmbier left.

Warmbier is a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati.

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