Parents of UVa student Otto Warmbier sue North Korea for the death of their son

April 26, 2018 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. — The parents of former University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, who died last year after his detention in North Korea, have filed a wrongful death suit against the North Korean government alleging their son was tortured and killed.

Warmbier, 22, was held in North Korea for 17 months before his medical evacuation to the United States last June. He died days after his return at University of Cincinnati Medical Center. At the time, doctors said Warmbier was “wakeful” but unresponsive and had a severe neurological injury.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday by his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier of Cincinnati.

McGuireWoods, the Richmond-based law firm representing the Warmbiers, released a statement from the family Thursday:

“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.”

North Korea denied mistreating him and said that he had contracted botulism and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

Warmbier allegedly attempted to steal a propaganda poster in Pyongyang during a brief visit to the country as a tourist. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016. He had been in a coma for a year prior to his evacuation.

The suit comes on the eve of a scheduled meeting between presidents Kim Jong Un of North Korea and Moon Jae-in of South Korea. President Donald Trump may meet with Kim next month.

Trump acknowledged Warmbier’s family in his State of the Union address in January, and his parents received a standing ovation.

Warmbier would have graduated from U.Va. last year. He had planned to study in China and went to North Korea on his way to Hong Kong.