North Korea denies torturing Otto Warmbier

  • 29/09/2017
Otto Warmbier died days after release.
Otto Warmbier died days after release. Photo credit: Reuters

North Korea says US student Otto Warmbier had suffered no torture during his 17-month detention, a day after an Ohio coroner said he died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain caused by an unknown injury.

Sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for trying to take from his hotel an item bearing a propaganda slogan, the University of Virginia student was held by North Korea from January 2016 until his release on June 15.

Warmbier died days after arriving in the United States and his parents said that their son had been tortured while in North Korea.

North Korea had provided medical care to Warmbier despite his "hostile acts" against the country, and claims of torture are groundless slander aimed at opposing the North, North Korea's foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the state-run KCNA news agency on Thursday.

The parents of 22-year-old Warmbier and US President Donald Trump have accused the North Korean government of torturing him.

However, Dr Lakshmi Sammarco says evidence has led to no "scientific facts" to solve the young Ohio man's death.

"We don't know what happened to him and this is the bottom line," she said.

A coroner's report dated September 11 shows the cause of death for the University of Virginia student as complications from brain-damaging oxygen deprivation through "an unknown insult more than a year prior to death".

While Warmbier's family declined an autopsy, Sammarco said her office used medical scanning and imaging for a "virtual autopsy" and nothing more would have been gained by doing an autopsy so long after his brain damage occurred.

Warmbier's parents told Fox News that North Korea tortured and "destroyed" him.

Pyongyang has claimed Warmbier fell into a coma that resulted from botulism and a sleeping pill.

Sammarco agreed with doctors who treated Warmbier and said they found no evidence of botulism or evidence of fractures that might point to beatings.

She said a forensic dentist agreed with her conclusion there was "no evidence of trauma" to Warmbier's teeth.

Fred Warmbier said on TV his son's mouth "looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth".

Warmbier died in Cincinnati in June 2017, less than a week after he returned comatose to the US.

Reuters

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