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Otto Warmbier 'systematically tortured' by N Korea say parents

Otto Warmbier is escorted by N Korean guards (image released March 2016) Image copyright Reuters

The parents of Otto Warmbier have shared horrific details of his condition when he arrived home from North Korea.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier told Fox and Friends that the North Koreans were "terrorists" who had "systematically tortured" their son.

The US student was jailed in Pyongyang in 2016 for stealing a hotel sign.

He was released on medical grounds in June this year but arrived home seriously ill and died days later.

North Korea has always denied mistreating Mr Warmbier. They say he contracted botulism while in prison but US doctors found no trace of this.

'This was no accident'

In their first interview since his death, they told Fox news that they "felt it was time to tell the truth about the condition that Otto was in".

US doctors had previously described him as being in a state of "unresponsive wakefulness", but the Warmbiers said calling this a coma was "unfair".

Mr Warmbier said when they saw his son he was "moving around, and jerking violently, making these howling and inhuman sounds".

His head was shaved, he was blind and deaf, his arms and legs were "totally deformed" and he had a huge scar on his foot, he said. It "looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth".

"Otto was systematically tortured and intentionally injured by Kim and his regime. This was no accident," said Mr Warmbier.

He also said his son had been abandoned by his family, his country and the world and that the government had given them no information about his death.

Mrs Warmbier said North Korea sent him home because "they didn't want him to die on their soil".

The family refused a post-mortem examination because they thought he had suffered enough and "I wasn't going to let him out of my sight," she said.

She also pleaded with people not to go to North Korea, saying it was "playing into" Pyongyang's propaganda. US citizens are now banned from travelling to North Korea.

'A great interview'

However, a local newspaper in the US has disputed the allegations made by the Warmbiers.

The Cincinnati Enquirer said it had obtained a copy of a coroner's report on Otto Warmbier, based on an external examination, which revealed several small scars but nothing which indicated torture.

The paper quoted the Hamilton County coroner as saying Mr Warmbier's teeth were "natural and in good repair" and that he appeared to have died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

US President Donald Trump, who is known to watch Fox and Friends, tweeted that it had been "a great interview", and that "Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea".

His comment is likely to stoke the escalating tensions between North Korea and the US, which have exchanged allegations and threats at an unprecedented rate in recent weeks.

The leaders of both countries have directly threatened the other with nuclear annihilation. The international community is appealing for all incendiary rhetoric to be toned down.

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