The parents of Otto Warmbier appeared on Fox & Friends and CNN Tuesday detailing their son’s brutal torture at the hands of the North Korean regime.
Warmbier, 22, was returned to the US from North Korea three months ago after being detained for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel in late 2015. He died in June 2017 after physicians determined he’d suffered extensive brain damage.
Warmbier’s parents say they’d hoped Otto could eventually be rehabilitated, but had to reassess their optimism after finding their son deaf, blind, writhing in pain and screaming.
“So what we pictured, because we’re optimists, is that Otto would be asleep and maybe in a medically induced coma and then when our doctors here would work with him and he’d get the best care and love that he would come out of it,” Cindy Warmbier told Fox, describing the first time the parents reunited with their son.
“We walked over to the plane, the engines are still humming, they had just landed… When we got halfway up the steps we heard this howling, involuntary, inhuman sound,” Fred Warmbier stated. “We weren’t really certain what it was.”
“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” Fred recounted. “He was blind. He was deaf. 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.”
“They destroyed him,” Cindy added.
“North Korea is not a victim, they are terrorists,” Fred reiterated. “They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured Otto.”
“We weren’t prepared for this at all. His hands and legs were totally deformed,” the Warmbiers told CNN, also addressing a huge cut on Otto’s foot.
“Our coroner did a visual. It covered the entire top of his foot. How do you get a scar that covers the entire top of your foot? She said it had to be an open wound for months and months and months.”
“Our family and Otto were humiliated by the North Koreans. Otto was tortured and essentially murdered.”
Upon his return, University of Cincinnati Medical Center doctors determined Otto suffered “extensive loss of brain tissue,” consistent with a lack of oxygen to the brain, and had been in a vegetative state since April 2016.
Doctors, however, were unable to find evidence that the regime had tortured Otto, and the regime vehemently denied it had tortured him, instead accusing the US of waging a propaganda campaign against them.
“North Korea claimed Warmbier slipped into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill and that he was provided proper medical care,” reported The Washington Post.
Prior to his conviction, the University of Virginia student was forced to deliver a confession, in addition to a humiliating, tearful apology defending his life before North Korean officials, who ultimately denied his requests for clemency and sentenced him to 15 years hard labor.
Fred Warmbier also called on the US to list North Korea as a state sponsor of terror, and had previously praised US President Donald Trump for facilitating his son’s return, while the Obama administration had urged the family to keep a “low profile.”
Three other Americans are currently still detained in North Korea.
The Warmbiers’ recollections come as the Trump administration adopts stricter sanctions aimed at discouraging North Korea’s attempts to build a nuclear arsenal.