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Monday 4 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Jon Chol Jin
Otto Warmbier

North Korea prisoner was blind, deaf, 'jerking violently' and howling when released, parents say

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said their son was tortured.

THE PARENTS OF a young Ohioan who was detained in North Korea for more than a year and died soon after being released have said that they believe he was tortured.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said their son was “jerking violently”, howling, and “staring blankly” when he returned home on a medical flight.

The pair appeared on Fox News’ Fox & Friends morning TV show yesterday amid an escalating war of words between the Trump administration and North Korea.

A North Korean official has claimed US President Donald Trump has, in effect, declared war, which the White House denied.

Otto Warmbier’s father said they wanted to speak out about his condition after hearing North Korea claiming to be a victim that’s being picked on.

“North Korea is not a victim. They’re terrorists,” he said.

They kidnapped Otto. They tortured him. They intentionally injured him. They are not victims.

In response to the interview, Trump yesterday tweeted that Otto was tortured “beyond belief” by North Korea.


Otto’s parents described the condition his family found him in when they went aboard an air ambulance that arrived 13 June in Cincinnati.

They said Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, was howling, making an “involuntary, inhuman sound”, ”staring blankly into space jerking violently”, and was blind and deaf with his head shaved.

Fred Warmbier said his mouth “looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth”.

Fred Warmbier said Otto’s mother and sister ran off the plane at the initial sight of him.

“We weren’t prepared… no mother, no parent should ever have gone through what we went through,” Cindy Warmbier said.

She said it was “inexcusable” that her son had been alone in captivity for so long with no one to comfort him. She said she “got it together” and stayed with him after his arrival.

Fred Warmbier also said Otto had a large scar on his right foot and a high fever.

He died less than a week after returning at University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Doctors there said he arrived in a state of “unresponsive wakefulness” and had suffered a “severe neurological injury” of uncertain cause.

North Korea has denied mistreating the youth, sentenced to 15 years of hard labour in March 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. He was arrested that January as he prepared to leave the country after visiting as a tourist.

Read: ‘Absurd’: White House denies declaring war on North Korea

Read: North Korea says Trump has declared war as it vows to shoot down US planes

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