Family says US college student released by NKorea is in coma

"He is on Medivac flight on his way home", his parents said in a statement Tuesday.

A military airplane carrying Otto Warmbier landed in his hometown Cincinnati, Ohio, shortly before 10:20 pm (0220 GMT Wednesday), CBS News reported.

But in a twist of fate, the 22-year-old has been found to be in a coma after 17 months of incarceration.

Securing Warmbier's release "was a big priority" for President Donald Trump, who worked "very hard and very closely" with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

Tillerson says that Warmbier is on his way back to the U.S.to be re-united with his family. Critics of engagement with North Korea say Rodman's visits legitimize the country's ruling regime. Rodman has traveled to the isolated nation four times previously. In this January 8, 2014, file photo, former NBA star Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 at the airport in Pyongyang on his way home from a visit to the reclusive country.

A senior U.S. official said they had received worrying reports on his condition in a North Korean gulag, which prompted talks to bring him home immediately.

North Korean authorities said they had security footage of him trying to steal a banner containing a political slogan that was hanging from the walls of his Pyongyang hotel.

Tillerson said the State Department is continuing "to have discussions" with North Korea about the release of other three American citizens imprisoned there.

The North Korean court held that Warmbier had committed a crime "pursuant to the USA government's hostile policy toward (the North), in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist". On this trip, he has already been roundly criticized by some for visiting during a time of high tensions between the US and North Korea over its weapons programs and recent missile launches. In April, an Egyptian court acquitted Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American charity worker held for almost three years, after Trump raised her case with the Egyptian president.

A White House official said Trump had instructed Tillerson to take all appropriate measures to secure the release of Americans held in North Korea.

In Tokyo, a visiting senior USA official said Rodman is making the trip as a private citizen.

"I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea, or as I call him, "Kim", to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose", Rodman tweeted in May 2013.

The U.S. government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns.

Reason for detention: Gomes, a former English teacher in South Korea, was accused of entering North Korea illegally from China.

The Trump administration has sought to increase pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile activities.

David Lee, who said he studied with Kim Hak-song in the United States, said Kim Hak-song would send food to North Korea.

He taught at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, a privately run school that has dozens of foreign faculty.

In the past, North Korea has held out until senior US officials or statesmen came to personally bail out detainees, all the way up to former President Bill Clinton, whose visit in 2009 secured the freedom of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling.

- South Korean-born US citizen Kim Dong Chul, who was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

- Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk, was detained April 22 at the Pyongyang airport.

A USA citizen who is being held in North Korea on charges of "hostile acts" against the Kim Jong Un regime may actually have faced different charges at the time of his arrest, according to an eyewitness.

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