North Korea releases detained U.S. student Otto Warmbier

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that North Korean officials have released U.S. citizen Otto Warmbier, who has been imprisoned in North Korea since early 2016.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati, had been serving a 15-year hard labor sentence for crimes against the state. He had been accused of trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel while visiting the country as a tourist in January 2016.

The announcement of his release came shortly after former NBA star Dennis Rodman arrived in Pyongyang amid rising tensions between the United States and North Korea.

According to a statement released by the secretary of state, Warmbier is en route to the United States and will be reunited with his family upon his return. Tillerson noted that his department secured Warmbier's at the direction of the president.

"The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained," he added in his statement.

Warmbier, who had not been seen since his trial in March 2016, had apparently been in a coma, according to the Washington Post.

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North Korean officials reportedly claimed Warmbier came down with a case of botulism shortly after his trial and was given a sleeping pill and has not awakened since.

"Our son is coming home," Fred Warmbier told the Post. "At the moment, we're just treating this like he's been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight."

The other imprisoned Americans include Kim Dong Chul, arrested for espionage in October 2015, and Tony Kim and Kim Hak-Song, who were both detained this year.

Warmbier was originally expected to graduate with the University of Virginia class of 2017 this past May. His classmates honored him at graduation.