CINCINNATI -- Fred Warmbier stood behind a podium Thursday, wearing the same jacket his son Otto Warmbier wore nearly 18 months ago when he was a prisoner in North Korea.
“This is the coat he wore when he did his confession,” he said.
Fred addressed the public in a news conference Thursday morning to talk about Otto’s medical condition after his release Tuesday from the totalitarian nation. Otto was serving a 15-year prison sentence with hard labor for being accused of trying to steal a propaganda banner.
Watch Fred Warmbier's full statement in the player below.
“I know you have many questions about what transpired. So do we. We have few answers,” Fred said. “There’s no excuse for the way the North Koreans treated our son and no excuse for the way they have treated so many others.”
Kelly Martin of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said Otto is in stable condition since arriving at the hospital Tuesday, but he has suffered a “severe neurological injury.”
Fred said his wife, Cindy, was with Otto Thursday morning, as she has been every day since his return home.
“She wanted me to tell you that she knows Otto is a fighter, and she and I firmly believe that he fought to stay alive through the worst that the North Koreans could put him through in order to return to the family and community he loves,” he said.
Fred said he does not believe North Korea’s explanation that his son’s coma resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill.
“North Korea is a pariah regime, they’re brutal and they’re terroristic ... we don’t believe anything they say,” he said.
The Warmbier family spent 15 months in the dark. They hadn’t heard a word from their son. They only learned one week ago that Otto has been in a coma for almost all of that time, according to claims from the North Korean government.
Fred said he was in “disbelief” when he heard about his son’s medical state.
“Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing the coma -- and we don’t -- there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition secret and deny him top-notch medical care for so long.”
He said he doesn’t think he’ll ever find out why North Korean officials decided to release his son.
“I think the state department was negotiating pretty tough with them, and so I don’t know that we’re ever going to find the answer," he said. "They did not do this out of the kindness of their hearts. North Korea doesn’t do anything out of the kindness of their hearts.”
Fred blamed a tour company in China, in part, for his son's predicament, claiming the group provides “fodder” for North Koreans.
“(North Korea) lures Americans, and then they take them hostage, and then they do things to them, and that’s what happened to my son," he said. "He was taken hostage as he was at the airport trying to leave the country.”
Fred said having Otto home is a “bittersweet” feeling.
“We are not burdened with whatever North Korea says or does any longer. The Warmbier family is not. And I’m so happy for Cindy, myself, my community,” he said. “This community’s been amazing, they’ve been supportive.”
He said the family has -- up until Otto’s return -- felt pressure to keep quiet out of fear.
“Now we get to feel the love of the community and not have this crazy, ‘Oh, what are they thinking? Are we afraid of what North Korea will say? Don’t put ribbons on the trees.’ All that’s gone, so we don’t care now,” he said.
Fred said he is happy he can feel his son’s spirit again, and he is proud of his family.
“We are proud of the fact that our family are basically happy, positive people, and we’re going to stay that way," he said. "We’re thrilled that our son is on American soil ... and I’m able to talk to you on Otto’s behalf, and I’m honored to wear the jacket that he wore when he gave his confession.
"Otto, I love you, and I’m so crazy about you, and I’m so glad you’re home. You are such a great guy.”