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Posted: September 27, 2017

Otto Warmbier's parents speak out about son's death, North Korean torture

What You Need To Know: Otto Warmbier

By Matt Naham, Rare.us

Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was imprisoned for allegedly taking a propaganda poster in North Korea and later died, rebuked the DPRK as “terrorist” in an interview with “Fox & Friends,” their first since their son’s death.

>> Watch the interview here

Cindy said when she and Fred heard their son was in a coma, they never imagined there was nothing that could be done to save him.

>> On Rare.us: College professor under fire for comments about Otto Warmbier’s death

“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,” she said.

Matching other accounts of North Korean torture, Fred said their first encounter with their son after he returned to the U.S. was horrifying:

>> On Rare.us: Otto Warmbier, American student released from North Korea, has died

"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. 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. 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."

>> Read more trending news

The Warmbiers said that “North Korea is not a victim; they are terrorist,” that they “tortured and intentionally injured [Otto]” and that they are a “state sponsor of terror.”

President Donald Trump said Otto Warmbier was “tortured beyond belief” in a tweet praising the interview.

>> See the tweet here

The interview comes at a time when tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have escalated significantly, with North Korea having fired at least 21 missiles during 14 tests since February 2017.


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Bryan Woolston/AP

Otto Warmbier's parents speak out about son's death, North Korean torture

Bryan Woolston/AP

Otto Warmbier's parents speak out about son's death, North Korean torture

In this June 22, 2017, file photo, Fred and Cindy Warmbier watch as the casket for their son Otto is placed in a hearse after his funeral in Wyoming, Ohio. Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of a young Ohioan who was detained in North Korea for more than a year and died soon after being released, appeared on Fox News' "Fox & Friends" morning TV show Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, saying their son was "jerking violently," howling, and "staring blankly" when he returned home on a medical flight that arrived June 13 in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston, File)

Otto Warmbier dies from injuries sustained in N. Korea prison

Otto Warmbier, 22, of Wyoming, Ohio, has died from injuries sustained during detainment in North Korea. 

>> Read more trending news 

University of Cincinnati Medical Center released a statement on behalf of Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Monday afternoon. 

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m.  It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.  We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.  When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.  We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too.”

The family thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treating him but said, “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”

They said they were choosing to focus on the time they were given with their “warm, engaging, brilliant” son instead of focusing on what they had lost.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, convicted of subversion after he tearfully confessed he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months and medically evacuated from North Korea last week. Doctors said he returned with severe brain damage, but it wasn’t clear what caused it.

Parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier told The Associated Press in a statement the day of his release that they wanted “the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime ” and expressed relief he had been returned to “finally be with people who love him.”

He was taken by Medivac to Cincinnati, where he grew up in suburban Wyoming. He was salutatorian of his 2013 class at the highly rated high school, and was on the soccer team among other activities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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