Dad: Otto Warmbier's release from North Korea not connected to Rodman

By Elizabeth Shim Contact the Author   |   June 15, 2017 at 1:15 PM
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June 15 (UPI) -- The father of the University of Virginia student who was released from North Korea this week said U.S. basketball Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman's visit to Pyongyang had no connection to the freeing of Otto Warmbier.

Fred Warmbier told reporters at a press conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Thursday morning the release came after he and his wife decided the "time for strategic patience was over," the BBC reported.

"When Otto was first taken we were advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release," Fred Warmbier said.

Warmbier said his son, who was in stable condition according to the Ohio hospital where he was transferred, was subjected to brutal treatment. He also learned Otto had suffered a "severe neurological injury."

The Ohio man said he trusted a "false premise they would treat Otto fairly and let him go," even though he did not hear from his son for 15 months.

Warmbier's release comes at a time when Rodman may be trying to procure a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a four-day trip to the isolated country.

The retired sports celebrity was credited with the release of another U.S. captive in 2014, but Warmbier's release was negotiated between the two governments.

On Thursday, Rodman was photographed presenting Kim Il Guk, the sports minister, with a copy of U.S. President Donald Trump's book Trump: The Art of the Deal, CNN reported.

Rodman, who told reporters in Beijing he was planning to do "something that's pretty positive," also included a copy of a Where's Waldo book, a mermaid puzzle and artisanal soap as gifts to the state official.

North Korea's news agency KCNA reported Warmbier was repatriated on humanitarian grounds.

Pyongyang officials have said Warmbier fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill.

Three Americans remain in North Korea custody.

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