North Korea tortured and 'destroyed' prisoner Otto Warmbier, parents say

Mr Warmbier broke down as he was jailed in March 2016
Mr Warmbier broke down as he was jailed in March 2016

The parents of a US student who died after being jailed in North Korea say their son was "systematically tortured" and "destroyed" by the authoritarian regime.

Otto Warmbier was jailed for stealing a Pyongyang hotel sign in 2016 and died days after being medically evacuated to the US in June.

His parents Fred and Cindy said that when Otto was returned home he had a shaved head, was blind, deaf and "staring blankly into space, jerking violently", "howling" and making an "involuntary, inhuman sound".

"As we looked at him and tried to comfort him it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth," Mr Warmbier told Fox News.

"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 are terrorists."

Otto Warmbier, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labour, was in a state of unresponsive wakefulness when he was admitted to University of Cincinnati Medical Centre.

In its first statement on his death , Pyongyang claimed the 22-year-old fell into a coma after suffering from botulism and hit out at "slanderous talk about cruel treatment and torture". It denies mistreating the student.

However, Mr Warmbier said his son was "on his deathbed when he came home to us", adding that it was "completely unfair" to say he was in a coma.

"Otto was systematically tortured and intentionally injured by Kim Jong Un and his regime. This was no accident."

Mrs Warmbier added that the student was "destroyed" and only released by North Korea as "they didn't want him to die on their soil".

She said: "The fact that Otto was alone all that time with no one to comfort him is inexcusable. What ever happened, I mean why would you do this?"

Tweeting about the interview with Mr and Mrs Warmbier, President Donald Trump said their son was "tortured beyond belief by North Korea".

It comes as Mr Trump warned the US is prepared to take the "military option" to deal with tensions over the reclusive regime.

Blaming previous US administrations for failing to rein in Pyongyang's nuclear threat, he said military action was "not a preferred option" but "if we have to take it, we will".

The President added: "If we take that option, it will be devastating, I can tell you that, devastating for North Korea."