This makes me freshly outraged and saddened about the total news blackout caused by stupid things Donald Trump says: remember the University of Virginia student who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in a North Korean prison camp for allegedly stealing a poster? Until today, he was still there.
Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, tells the New York Times that Otto Warmbier, 23, has been in a coma for over a year and had to be medically evacuated. The Times also reports that the US received intelligence that Warmbier was severely beaten, according to a “senior American official.” TIME noted in April that Warmbier has likely been suffering from malnutrition in a prison camp where inmates are “literally worked to death.”
The release was the result of US-North Korea negotiations, mediated by Sweden.
Meanwhile, one month ago, President Trump called Kim Jong-un a “smart cookie.”
Warmbier had been on a Young Pioneers Tour, a China-based “adventure travel company” which for some mind-blowing reason is still allowed to provide rave reviewed tours to North Korea. You may remember footage of Warmbier sobbing as he “confessed” his crime on North Korean state television. He’d been in custody since January 2016 and was sentenced in March 2016 in a one-hour trial. Hours later, the Obama Administration announced new sanctions against North Korea.
This afternoon, Rex Tillerson released a brief official statement:
At the direction of the President, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea. Mr. Warmbier is en route to the United States, where he will be reunited with his family. The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained.
Out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family, we have no further comment on Mr. Warmbier.
Doubtless Donald Trump will take personal credit for this on twitter or in some fucking press conference, so enjoy the few minutes before he does, where we can just think about the fact that a brutalized 23-year-old kid returned home today.