North Korea, through its media outlet the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), denied on Thursday that it tortured late American Otto Warmbier during his time in prison, dismissing Warmbier as a “criminal” and American President Donald Trump as an “old lunatic” for accusing Pyongyang of torturing and killing him.
KCNA appears to be responding to an interview with Warmbier’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, in which they accused North Korea of “terrorism” and recounted in detail the severe brain injury that their 22-year-old son appeared to be suffering shortly before his death after arriving in Ohio.
Warmbier was arrested during a vacation to North Korea for having allegedly pulled down a communist poster (“hostile acts”) and sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp, which KCNA referred to as “reform” in their statement Thursday.
“Lately, Trump and his clique, for their anti-DPRK propaganda, are again exploiting the death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who had been under reform through labor for the criminal act he committed against the DPRK and died after returning to the U.S.,” the KCNA statement began. “The fact that the U.S. is employing even a dead person for the conspiracy campaign to fuel the international atmosphere of putting pressure on the DPRK shows how vile and inveterate the hostility of the U.S. policy-makers towards the DPRK is.”
The statement insists Warmbier “was never subjected to any form of ‘torture'” and claims American medical officials confirmed this. It goes on to demand President Trump apologize to North Korea for the “crime of luring and pushing a student who should be concentrating on his studies into committing criminal acts against the DPRK.”
In their sentencing, North Korean officials asserted that Warmbier was acting on behalf of the U.S. government when he allegedly tore down the poster in question, in addition to following orders from the Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Ohio. Following his death, his family revealed that Warmbier was Jewish, a fact kept from the public to avoid “embarrassing” Pyongyang and endangering his well-being in captivity.
In their statement this week, KCNA refers to Warmbier as “a criminal who was sentenced to reform through labor on March 16, 2016 by the law of the DPRK for the hostile act he committed against the DPRK according to the mission he was given by an anti-DPRK conspiracy organization in the U.S.”
“However, we provided him with sincere medical care on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his failing health until he returned to the U.S.,” the statement claims.
“The fact that the old lunatic Trump and his riff-raff slandered the sacred dignity of our supreme leadership, using bogus data full of falsehood and fabrications, only serves to redouble the surging hatred of our army and people towards the U.S. and their will to retaliate thousand-fold,” the statement concludes.
Warmbier died in June following his release to American authorities. North Korean officials told their American counterparts that Warmbier had contracted botulism during his time in a labor camp, though both his family and many experts suggested that his apparent brain damage was the clear result of abuse and torture.
This week, in an appearance on Fox and Friends, the Warmbiers offered a more detailed account of the harrowing condition their son was in before his death. “We thought he was in a coma, but you couldn’t call it a coma,” Cindy Warmbier explained. Fred Warmbier added that Warmbier was blind, deaf, “looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth,” and was emitting “this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound” when they first saw him upon his return to America.
“It was astounding to Cindy and I to discover that North Korea is not listed as a state sponsor of terror. We owe it to the world to list it to North Korea as a state sponsor of terror,” Fred Warmbier added.
President Trump responded to the interview on Twitter, calling the conversation “great” and asserting, “Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”