If retired NBA star Dennis Rodman is to be believed, he played a huge role in last week’s release of American college student Otto Warmbier from a North Korean prison.
In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on Friday, Rodman claimed credit for Otto Warmbier’s freedom, noting that he was not aware that the prisoner was sick when he was released from custody.
“I was just so happy to see the kid released,” Rodman told GMA host Michael Strahan. “Later that day, that’s when we found out he was ill, no one knew that.”
Warmbier returned to the United States on Monday, June 12, in a comatose state and died about a week later.
Chris Volo, Rodman’s agent, stated that he personally lobbied to the North Korean government for Warmbier’s return home on Rodman’s behalf.
“I asked on behalf of Dennis for his release three times,” Volo told ABC News. “I know being there had something to do with it. Because when I was organizing the trip… and I meet with the delegates here, you know, I addressed… Otto Warmbier. And I said to them, ‘we… would need his… you know, a release, some type of good faith, if we’re ever going to do some type of future sports relations.’”
“They said they understood,” he added.
The claim, however, was denied by both Warmbier’s father and the U.S. State Department.
“Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with Otto returning to the United States,” Fred Warmbier told GMA.
Rodman, who arrived in North Korea on the same day Warmbier was released, also said that he tried to arrange a meeting with Warmbier’s family but was declined.
According to the doctors assigned to him, the released prisoner had suffered a severe neurological injury from a still unidentified cause.
North Korea released a statement on Friday denying that it tortured Warmbier during his captivity.
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor last year after being convicted of stealing a propaganda banner from his hotel.