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FILE - In this March 16, 2016, file photo, American student Otto Warmbier, center, is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea announced Warmbier's detention Jan. 22, 2016, and the University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years in prison at hard labor after a televised confession that he tried to steal a propaganda banner. As President Donald Trump's administration takes office one year later, there's been little public word about what has happened to Warmbier. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin, File)

An ex-Obama official said Obama had 'no higher priority' than to bring Warmbier home


UPDATE 8:28 p.m. EST:

One of former President Obama's advisers said his administration had "no higher priority" than securing the release of Americans detained in North Korea, but that the country's isolation "posed unique challenges," according to the Associated Press.

Ned Price said Obama's administration "worked through every avenue" to secure the release of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier.

Price added that Obama's efforts to reunite Warmbier with his family in the U.S. never ceased.

UPDATE 3:56 p.m. EST:  Otto Warmbier has "extensive loss of brain tissue."

UPDATE 3:08 p.m. EST:

Dr. Daniel Kanter of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center described Otto Warmbier's neurological condition as "unresponsive wakefulness" at a press conference Thursday afternoon. 

Warmbier requires no supplemental oxygen and seems well nourished, but is not able to understand his surroundings. Kanter said there have been no signs of botulism, and there are still a lot of questions regarding what happened to Warmbier while detained in North Korea. 

UPDATE 2:20 p.m. EST:

Otto Warmbier's father Fred Warmbier expressed anger at North Korea on Thursday that his son was "so brutally treated for so long."

Speaking at the high school Otto Warmbier attended and wearing the coat his son wore during his trial in North Korea last year, Fred Warmbier said it was "bittersweet" having his son home given his condition, but that he was relieved that he was "now home in the arms of those who love him."

Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergraduate student who was imprisoned in North Korea in March 2016, speaks during a news conference, Thursday, June 15, 2017, at Wyoming High School in Cincinnati. Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term for alleged anti-state acts, was released and medically evacuated Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

"I knelt down by his side, and I hugged him, and I told him I missed him and I was so glad that he made it home," Fred Warmbier said. "These things are tough to process, but he's with us, and we're trying to make him comfortable."

UPDATE 10:38 a.m. EST:

Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student released this week by North Korea, suffered a "severe neurological injury," the Associated Press reported.

Kelly Martin, spokeswoman for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, said Warmbier is in stable condition. He arrived at the hospital two days ago.

Warmbier's father, Fred Warmbier, said he doesn't believe North Korea's explanation that his son's coma was the result of botulism and a sleeping pill.

ORIGINAL STORY:  North Korea said it released U.S. student Otto Warmbier for humanitarian reasons, Reuters reported.

Warmbier was sentenced in March to 15 years of hard labor after he was found guilty in a North Korean court of stealing a poster with a propaganda slogan. The University of Virginia student served 17 months before he was medically evacuated to the United States. 

His parents -- who are expected to hold a press conference in Ohio on Thursday -- told the press that he arrived in a state of coma. 

Warmbier is currently undergoing medical treatment at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

North Korea's KCNA news agency released a statement following Warmbier's release. "Under a decision by the DPRK Central Court of June 13, American citizen Otto Warmbier who was serving a sentence of labor was returned on June 13 on humanitarian grounds," KCNA said. 

Warmbier's family told the  Washington Post that North Korean officials claimed their son became ill from botulism after his trial and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. 

Some are expressing their gratitude to President Trump and Rex Tillerson.

Others are criticizing the past administration.

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