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Otto Warmbier: North Korea releases jailed US student

North Korea has released jailed US student Otto Warmbier, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says.

Otto Frederick Warmbier has been in custody since his arrest in January 2016

Mr Warmbier, 22, was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.

Mr Tillerson said Mr Warmbier was on his way back to the US to be reunited with his family in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Washington Post quotes his father Fred as saying his son has been medically evacuated while in a coma.

The newspaper says Mr Warmbier’s parents have been told their son contracted botulism soon after his trial 15 months ago, and has been in a coma ever since.

“Our son is coming home,” Fred Warmbier is quoted as saying. “At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight.”

Otto Warmbier, an economics graduate from the University of Virginia, travelled to North Korea as a tourist with Young Pioneer Tours.

He was arrested on 2 January 2016, later giving a television confession that he had tried to take down a political slogan from a staff area of Yanggakdo International Hotel.

After a short trial on 16 March, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for crimes against the state.

Rodman in Pyongyang

His release comes hours after US basketball star Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea, but it is not clear if the two events are linked.

Mr Rodman is a friend of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and has made several visits to the country in recent years.

He said upon his arrival this time that he was in the country as a private citizen, and “my purpose is to actually see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea”.

Three other US citizens remain in custody in North Korea. They are 62-year-old Kim Dong-chul, a Korean-American missionary; Korean-American professor Kim Sang-duk (or Tony Kim); and Kim Hak-song, who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST). BBC News