Days after U.S. student Otto Warmbier died, North Korean state media said his death was a “mystery” and dismissed accusations he was tortured during his 17 months in captivity in the country.
“This college kid never should have been detained in the first place”, said Portman, who previously revealed that he met secretly with North Korean officials in NY last December to press for Warmbier’s release.
North Korea released him last week for what it described as humanitarian reasons and he died on Monday in a U.S. hospital.
Doctors at the hospital said Warmbier had suffered a severe neurological injury from an unknown cause.
He was sentenced two months later to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal an item bearing a propaganda slogan from his hotel, North Korea state media said. “Our relevant agencies treat all criminals thoroughly in accordance with domestic laws and worldwide standards and Warmbier was not an exception”, a spokesman for the National Reconciliation Council said.
Warmbier was detained and sentenced to hard labor early past year while he was in a hotel on a tourist trip. The article also criticised South Korea for using Mr Warmbier’s case to seek the release of other detainees. They worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea.
Otto Warmbier’s casket is carried to the hearse followed by his family and friends after a funeral service on Thursday.
Mr Hunziker was detained in North Korea for months in 1996 for illegally crossing the border and committed suicide less than a month after he returned to the United States later that year.
North Korea has often detained visiting Americans on charges of anti-state and other crimes. Seventeen months later, he returned to US soil and died after spending most of his imprisonment in a comatose state.
In an interview with Good Morning America on Friday, former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman suggested he helped secure Otto Warmbier’s release from detention in North Korea.
The 22-year-old student was released from North Korea and handed over to the U.S. authorities on June 13, but he passed away in Cincinnati on June 19.
The spokesman also said that the Obama administration never officially requested Warmbier’s release and refused to establish any kind of dialogue with North Korea.
When Warmbier was still in coma, his father said there was no excuse for how his son had been treated in North Korea.
Ohio’s Republican senator calls Otto Warmbier “an wonderful young man” who shouldn’t have been detained.
There are three more Americans held in North Korea.