December 14, 2018

Mourners gather for U.S. student jailed by N Korea

26 June 2017, 11:14 | Marion Schneider

Loved ones and friends gathered Thursday morning to celebrate the life of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who died shortly after being returned home to OH in a coma after being detained in North Korea.

His family had no news of him until 13 June, when Pyongyang said he had been in a coma since his trial after contracting botulism and receiving a sleeping pill.

The 22-year-old's family alleges he was tortured.

"This college kid never should have been detained in the first place", said the Republican Portman, who previously revealed that he met secretly with North Korean officials in NY last December.

In an article published by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Pyongyang said they treated the 22-year-old according to domestic law and worldwide standards. It rebuffed "groundless public opinion now circulating in the U.S. that he died of torture and beating during his reform through labor".

'The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the USA in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well, ' the spokesman was quoted by KCNA as saying.

Warmbier was travelling in North Korea with a tour group, and was arrested at Pyongyang airport as he was about to leave.

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He was accused of stealing a propaganda sign from a hotel and, two months later, was sentenced to 15 years hard labour. "This is the end of one great show, but just the beginning to hundreds of new spinoffs", read a quote from Warmbier's graduation speech included in the program. He was released a week later.

A long line of mourners formed in the early hours of the morning for Warmbier's funeral, held at the high school from which he graduated in 2013.

But in its first statement since the University of Virginia undergraduate's death, North Korea refuted the accusations. "Today we're seeing the good", he said, adding that the North Koreans "need to be held accountable" for Mr Warmbier's "appalling" treatment.

Warmbier's alma mater was packed Thursday, as the community came to terms with its sorrow over his death - and celebrated what Meis described as his rare combination of intelligence, affability and sincerity.

But Rodman's agent told ABC News said he asked for Warmbier's release on behalf of the former athlete three times before the trip.

On display were his passport, a calculator, and the blazer he wore as he begged for his life to a North Korean court.

"He had a deep desire to know God in a personal way", Thomas said.

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