Otto Warmbier's Parents Go After North Korea

They demand $1B in lawsuit, accuse Pyongyang of torturing and murdering their son
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2018 11:31 AM CST
Otto Warmbier's Parents Want Staggering Sum From N. Korea
In this March 16, 2016, file photo, American student Otto Warmbier is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin, File)

A decision by the White House last year to put North Korea on a list of state sponsors of terrorism opened up the regime to US lawsuits. Now the parents of Otto Warmbier are taking full advantage. They accuse the regime in Pyongyang of torturing and killing their son and are seeking a staggering $1.05 billion in punitive damages, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Ohio family also seeks $46 million for suffering in a motion filed in US District Court in DC. Warmbier, who had been a student at the University of Virginia, was detained while on a visit in 2016 and later seen in a video admitting to stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel. After sentencing Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor, North Korea released him last year, but Warmbier returned to the US in a coma with severe brain damage and died days later at age 22.

“We’re here because we don’t fear North Korea anymore,” his father, Fred Warmbier, said during an emotional court hearing this week attended by family and many of Warmbier's now-graduated friends from UVa, reports the Washington Post. So what are the chances of the Warmbiers collecting their enormous sum? Not too good, an attorney who has handled similar cases tells the Enquirer. Typically, any payouts in these kinds of lawsuits come as a result of the US seizing foreign assets. But North Korea is so economically isolated, that would likely not work. The court heard testimony from experts who spoke of torture techniques used by North Korea, ones designed to leave no trace. It's not clear when Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell will issue a decision. (An American writer who looked into the case floats an alternative theory about Warmbier's death.)

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