US court orders North Korea to pay $500 million for Otto Warmbier′s death | News | DW | 24.12.2018
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US court orders North Korea to pay $500 million for Otto Warmbier's death

A US federal judge has ordered North Korea to pay half a billion dollars to the parents of Otto Warmbier from Ohio. The American student died from severe brain damage after spending 17 months in custody in Pyongyang.

North Korea on Monday was ordered by Washington Chief US District Judge Beryl Howell to pay $500 million (€438 million) to the parents of Otto Warmbier.

"We are thankful that the United States has a fair and open judicial system so that the world can see that the Kim regime is legally and morally responsible for Otto’s death," the Warmbiers said after the verdict. Default judgments against foreign defendants are often difficult to collect.

The 22-year-old  University of Virginia finance student was returned to the US after spending 17 months in a Pyongyang prison. Blind and deaf, he had unexplained scarred wounds on his feet which an expert said in court papers suggested torture by electric shock.

An Ohio coroner said the cause of death was lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

15 years hard labor

The University of Virginia student, who had been on tour in Pyongyang, was detained and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea's Supreme Court for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster.

The lawsuit by Fred and Cindy Warmbier accused North Korea of "hostage taking, illegal detention, torture and killing" of Warmbier. It seeked unspecified damages for personal injury. Pyongyang dismissed the claims. 

Read more: Otto Warmbier's parents sue North Korea for their son's death

Symbolic victory

Judge Howell ordered the payment, and wrote: "North Korea is liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier, and the injuries to his mother and father, Fred and Cindy Warmbier."

Although the judgment is a successful outcome for the Warmbiers, it is considered a symbolic victory since there is no way of forcing North Korea to pay. 

kw/aw (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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