THE parents of US student Otto Warmbier, who died after a stint in North Korean prison, are suing North Korea for wrongful death, saying the torture he endured in detention lead to his demise.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier filed the lawsuit Thursday in the US District Court in Washington. They are seeking unspecified damages for personal injury.
The lawsuit seeks compensation for the death of 22-year-old Otto, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in January 2016 for stealing a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He died in June 2017, days after he was repatriated to the US with severe brain damage.
SEE ALSO: What killed Otto Warmbier?
“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,” his father Fred Warmbier said in a statement.
North Korea blamed botulism and ingestion of a sleeping pill for Warmbier’s condition and dismissed torture claims. However, the coroner who examined the college student said he found no sign of botulism, but also no evidence of trauma to his teeth or of broken bones.
Lawsuit filed in DC federal court today against North Korea by the parents of Otto Warmbier: https://t.co/K4JI19gniY
WaPo story on what this could mean as the US prepares for a possible meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un: https://t.co/j2iqlEuBko pic.twitter.com/qcY2as2VU4
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) April 26, 2018
The filing says the “rogue regime” of North Korea “took Otto hostage for its own wrongful ends and brutally tortured and murdered him.”
“Otto was blind and deaf. He had a shaved head, a feeding tube coming out of his nose, was jerking violently and howling, and was completely unresponsive to any of their efforts to comfort him,” the filing states.
It also says Warmbier falsely confessed to invented charges that he was acting as a spy connected to the Central Intelligence Agency.
Stewart Baker, a former assistant secretary of homeland security, said North Korea had immunity from lawsuits as a sovereign nation but still might be sued because of its US designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.
“But it’s almost impossible to collect any judgment that might be awarded. So it’s doubtful NK will feel sufficiently threatened by the lawsuit to upset the talks. And after all, he (Kim) can settle claims against NK in any US-NK agreement,” Baker told Reuters in an email.
After months of trading threats and insults, US President Donald Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June.
Additional reporting by Reuters.