Warmbier, reportedly in a coma, released from North Korean prison

The family said they were told by North Korean officials, through contacts with American envoys, that Warmbier fell ill from botulism sometime after his March 2016 trial and lapsed into a coma after taking a sleeping pill, the Washington Post reported.

Warmbier's parents said in a statement Tuesday that he had been freed by the Communist state but had to be medically evacuated because he was in a coma.

Mr Tillerson made no mention of Mr Warmbier's condition in his statement, saying only that he was on his way home to be reunited with his family and would not make any further comment, out of respect for the privacy of the family.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in North Korea's Supreme Court in March 2016.

Warmbier's release came as former US basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea on Tuesday, returning to the increasingly isolated nuclear-armed country where he has previously met leader Kim Jong Un.

Three weeks later, North Korea announced it was holding Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, for a "hostile act" against the state.

"We are heartened to hear of reports of the release of Otto Warmbier".

March 2016 to present: The United States consistently urges that North Korea allow Sweden consular access to Otto and three other American citizens, and pushes for their release.

The NBA hall of famer, who is 56, discussed his trips to North Korea with Trump before the businessman was elected president, according to associates of Rodman.

There was no immediate confirmation from US officials of North Korea's description of his illness - including whether he was stricken with botulism, a potentially fatal disease that is caused by a toxin but is not usually associated with loss of consciousness. He was serving a 15-year service for pinching a poster while on a student trip to North Korea.

THOMPSON: Otto's father, Fred Warmbier, told NPR his 22-year-old son had been beaten, brutalized and terrorized by North Korea.

News of Warmbier's release emerged around the time that former basketball star Dennis Rodman returned to North Korea for a second visit.

THOMPSON: Warmbier is on his way back to the USA and reportedly will land tonight.

Warmbier said he accepted the offer because his family was "suffering from very severe financial difficulties". He is scheduled to meet North Korea's sports minister before he leaves the country on Saturday.

They also expressed their relief that their son would "finally be with people who love him".

But Fifield says another motivation may have driven the North Koreans.

A North Korean foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity because no formal North Korean statement had been released, said only that Warmbier was released and left the country Tuesday.

Warmbier's release came after flamboyant former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang, having told journalists that US President Donald Trump would be happy with a trip that was "trying to accomplish something that we both need". A team was dispatched to Pyongyang and the sick University of Virginia student was handed over to US officials.

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