June 19, 2017 07:45 PM

Sen. John McCain is mourning the death of 22-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who died on Monday after being released from imprisonment in North Korea in a coma.

“I was saddened to learn about the death of Otto Warmbier today following his unjust imprisonment and torture in North Korea. I send my heartfelt condolences to Otto’s family and friends as they grieve this tragic loss,” McCain, 80, said in a statement.

“Let us state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime,” the Arizona senator continued. “In the final year of his life, he lived the nightmare in which the North Korean people have been trapped for 70 years: forced labor, mass starvation, systematic cruelty, torture, and murder.”

Alex Brandon/AP

McCain was held captive in North Vietnam for nearly six years, from 1967 – 1973, after his Skyhawk dive bomber plane was shot down over Hanoi. McCain was taken prisoner and put into solitary confinement with fractures in his right leg and both arms, and received minimal care.

“North Korea is threatening its neighbors, destabilizing the Asia-Pacific region, and rapidly developing the technology to strike the American homeland with nuclear weapons. Now it has escalated to brutalizing Americans, including three other citizens currently imprisoned in North Korea. The United States of America cannot and should not tolerate the murder of its citizens by hostile powers,” McCain’s statement concluded.

The Warmbier family confirmed Otto’s death in a statement on Monday. “It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.,” the statement read.

Otto, who was a native of the Cincinnati, Ohio, area, was sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor for stealing a political propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel room. He was in North Korea with a tour group and was arrested on Jan. 2, 2016, while trying to board a plane back to the United States.


He returned home to Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 13 in a coma after being “brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime,” his family said at the time.

In a statement, President Donald Trump said: “Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing. There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto’s family and friends, and all who loved him.”

Politicians on both sides of the aisle expressed their condolences on Twitter, including Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Al Franken.

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