Otto Warmbier's Parents Sue For North Korean Cargo Ship To Pay Down $500M Court Judgment
Jul. 7–The parents of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was held captive in North Korea for more than a year and died after returning home in a vegetative state, have filed a claim for a North Korean cargo ship that was seized by the US in May, saying it could be used to pay off some of the $500 million owed to them for their son’s death.
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The lawsuit, filed in the Southern District of New York, puts a legal claim on the Wise Honest, a 17,601-ton bulk carrier ship that was transporting coal near U.S. territorial waters in American Samoa in April 2018. U.S. officials, who took possession of the ship after Indonesian officials captured it, said the illegal coal sales funded North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program, which would violate UN and U.S. sanctions.
“We are deeply committed to the role the Justice Department plays in applying maximum pressure to the North Korean regime to cease its belligerence.,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said in a statement at the time.
North Korean officials called the move “gangster-like” and a “flagrant act of robbery.”
Fred and Cindy Warmbier claim ownership of the Wise Honest as part of a $500 million court judgment handed down in December.
“We are committed to holding North Korea accountable for the death of our son, Otto, and will work tirelessly to seize North Korean assets wherever they may be found,” the Warmbiers said in a statement.
Otto Warmbier, who was 21 at the time, was arrested during a five-day visit after being accused of tearing down a propaganda sign at a hotel in Pyongyang. In March 2016, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. He fell into a coma shortly after his sentencing, but North Korean authorities kept his condition a secret until June 2017, blaming it on a combination of botulism and sleeping pills.
He was released in June 2017, still comatose, and died six days later at the age of 22.
In December, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Beryl Howell ruled that North Korea was liable for more than $500 million, including $21 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages.
North Korea, which has denied any mistreatment of Warmbier, has not paid any money to his family yet.
“The Warmbiers are left to chase down the assets of North Korea to recover what they can for the torture and death of their son at the hands of North Korea’s dictator, who with ‘his cronies, show(s) no regard for human life,'” the lawsuit states.
Earlier this year, President Trump said he takes Kim Jong Un “at his word” when he denied playing any role in Otto Warmbier’s death. ___
This article is written by Kate Feldman from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.