The parents of US college student Otto Warmbier are suing North Korea over their son’s “torture and killing” in 2017 following his release from captivity there, according to a lawsuit filed in US District Court.
The wrongful-death suit comes at a diplomatically delicate time, just weeks ahead of an expected meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
The suit, filed on Friday (Thursday local time) in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, alleges “North Korea, which is a rogue regime, took Otto hostage for its own wrongful ends and brutally tortured and murdered him”.
“North Korea detained Otto, forced him to falsely “confess” to an act of
subversion on behalf of the United States government, tortured him, kept him in detention for a year and a half without allowing him to communicate with his family, and returned him to them in a non-responsive state and brain dead.”
His father Fred Warmbier said in a statement on Thursday that Otto was “kept as a prisoner for political purposes”.
“Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un.”
“Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son’s life. This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family.”
Otto Warmbier, Fred and Cindy’s first child (he has two siblings), graduated from the Wyoming High School in 2013. He was a
National Merit scholar, homecoming king and captain of the soccer team.
He graduated with an economics degree from the University of Virginia before spending one summer studying at the London School of
Economics with the plan to one day work on Wall Street.
While traveling through North Korea ahead of a planned study program in Hong Kong, Warmbier was imprisoned from January 2016 until he returned to the US in a coma.
He died a few days after his return, and an Ohio coroner blamed lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.
The suit alleged that “as a direct and proximate result of North Korea’s actions, Otto died at 22, mere days after his release. North Korea has repeatedly lied about the causes of Otto’s condition and refuses to acknowledge its abhorrent actions”.
North Korea blamed botulism and ingestion of a sleeping pill and dismissed torture claims.
The law suit alleges that as a result of their son’s torture and death, the Warmbiers have each experienced the loss of their son’s “companionship, comfort, advice and counsel”.
“[They] have suffered severe mental anguish [and] extreme emotional distress,” the suit read.