Otto Warmbier died three months ago, shortly after he returned to the United States from North Korea in a coma. Today, his parents appeared on Fox News to describe the condition their son was in when he arrived:
“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,” Fred said. “We weren’t really certain what it was.”
When they spotted their son, they found Otto on a stretcher, jerking violently, producing the terrifying cries.
“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” Fred said. “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.”
Fred Warmbier added that there was a large scar on Otto’s foot. The picture they paint is of a young man who has been brutally tortured. In fact, he died less than a week after his return home.
Some of what the Warmbier’s describe seems to be at odds with statements made previously by doctors who examined Otto. In June, NBC News reported no signs of physical abuse:
Doctors said he had no evidence of broken bones or other physical abuse, and scans of his head and neck looked normal, except for the damage to his brain.
I don’t know why doctors would have failed to mention damage to his lower teeth or a large scar on his foot. Why wasn’t this reported at the time? I’m not suggesting the parents are not telling the truth here, but these injuries seem significant. Why weren’t they mentioned before now, including by Warmbier’s parents? Did someone ask them not to offer those details?
As for why they are coming forward with this now, Warmbier’s parents say they have recently seen statements from North Korea in the news in which the country portrays itself as a victim. They want to point out that North Korea is not a victim, it is a victimizer. That’s certainly true as testimony from many North Korean defectors makes clear.
Otto Warmbier was a healthy 21-year-old when he was arrested and convicted for pulling down a propaganda banner in his hotel (a crime against the state in North Korea). He returned to the U.S. months later with severe brain damage apparently caused by a lack of oxygen to his brain. No clear explanation for his condition has been given. Here’s the interview with Warmbier’s parents: