American university student Otto Warmbier had planned to stay in North Korea for just five days of sightseeing as a tourist. But the 22-year-old student instead served 17 months in detention after being arrested in January, 2016, for allegedly stealing a political poster from his Pyongyang hotel.
When Otto was finally released and returned to his family in June this year, he was in a coma with signs of brain damage. He died six days after coming home.
Otto’s devastated patents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, have spoken out about their son’s tragic death and alleged torture in an interview on Fox News.
"North Korea is not a victim, they're terrorists," Fred said. "They kidnapped Otto. They tortured him. They intentionally injured him. They are not victims."
The parents said the 22-year-old was “howling,” making an "involuntary, inhuman sound" and "staring blankly into space jerking violently” when they boarded an air ambulance to Cincinnati in June with him. Otto was blind, deaf, and had his head shaved.
Fred recounted how his son’s mouth "looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth".
Cindy added: “What we pictured, because we’re optimists, was that Otto would be asleep and then maybe in a medically-induced coma. And when our doctors here would work with him and he would get the best care and love that he would come out of it.
"We weren't prepared ... no mother, no parent should ever have gone through what we went through.”
The mother explained that Otto’s condition continued to deteriorate.
“Within two days of Otto being home, his fever spiked to 104 degrees. He had a large scar on his right foot. North Korea is not a victim ... they purposefully and intentionally injured Otto,” she said.
Otto died at the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre less than a week after returning home.
As The New York Times reports, North Korea has denied mistreating the 22-year-old. North Korean officials blamed his condition on sleeping pills and botulism poisoning.