International

Otto Warmbier's parents sue North Korea over son's death

The parents of Otto Warmbier, who died last year after being released from captivity in North Korea, filed a lawsuit Thursday in an effort to hold North Korean leader Kimg Jong Un responsible for their son's death.

The Warmbier family is suing North Korea, stating their son was "brutally tortured and murdered" by the country. Warmbier was arrested while touring North Korea in 2016 and then held captive for 17 months.

He was returned to the United States last June in a comatose state with severe brain damage. He died days later.

"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," Fred Warmbier said in a statement.

"Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son's life," he continued. "This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family."

A coroner ruled that Warmbier, 22, died of a lack of blood and oxygen to his brain due to an unknown injury he sustained more than a year earlier. 

North Korea pushed back on claims it had tortured Warmbier.

The Washington Post first reported the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

McGuireWoods law firm is representing the family. A lead attorney in the case, Richard Cullen, also represents Vice President Pence.

A source told The Washington Post that the White House and vice president's office are supportive of the lawsuit, but did not help draft it.

The lawsuit was filed days after President Trump commended Kim for being "open" and "honorable" as the two nations discuss a potential summit in the coming months.

Trump was asked later what he meant by "honorable," with a reporter noting that Kim has been accused of murdering family members and starving his people. Trump responded by expressing hope that diplomatic talks would lead North Korea to get rid of its nuclear weapons program.

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