US judge orders North Korea to pay $500M in student's death
WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million in a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died shortly after being released from that country.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington ruled that North Korea should pay damages to Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of the University of Virginia student.
Warmbier was a University of Virginia student who was visiting North Korea with a tour group when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in March 2016 on suspicion of stealing a propaganda poster.
He died in June 2017, shortly after he returned to the U.S. in a coma and showing apparent signs of torture while in custody.
The judgement is largely a symbolic victory for now, since there is no mechanism to force North Korea to pay.
The lawsuit, filed in April, describes in horrific detail the physical abuse Warmbier endured in North Korean custody.
When his parents boarded a plane to see him upon arrival in the U.S., they were “stunned to see his condition,” according to court documents.
The 22-year-old was blind and deaf, his arms were curled and mangled and he was jerking violently and howling, completely unresponsive to his family’s attempts to comfort him.
His once straight teeth were misaligned, and he had an unexplained scarred wound on his foot.
An expert said in court papers that the injuries suggested he had been tortured with electrocution.
A neurologist later concluded that the college student suffered brain damage, likely from a loss of blood flow to the brain for 5-20 minutes.