(NEW YORK)– The parents of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months, have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against North Korea, charging that the regime tortured and killed their son.
The complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court states that “North Korea, which is a rogue regime, took Otto hostage for its own wrongful ends and brutally tortured and murdered him.”
Warmbier died on June 19, 2017, at the age of 22, just six days after he was evacuated from North Korea in a coma. Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center examined him upon his return to Ohio and reported that he had severe brain damage and was in a state of unresponsive wakefulness.
He was arrested in North Korea in January 2016 for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from a restricted area while visiting the country on a sightseeing tour. After a one-hour trial in March 2016, he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
The lawsuit comes as President Donald Trump gears up for a potential summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un next month or in early June.
Fred Warmbier, Otto Warmbier’s father, said in a statement that the lawsuit represents another step in holding North Korea responsible for their actions.
“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,” Fred Warmbier said in a statement. “This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family.”
In a statement, the State Department said: “We extend our condolences to the Warmbier family. Out of respect for the Warmbier family, we have no further comment.”
Otto Warmbier’s parents were guests of the president and first lady at the State of the Union, where Trump described the “depraved character” of the North Korean regime and pledged to “honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.”
Fred Wambier also attended the Olympic ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as a special guest of Vice President Mike Pence.
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