A USA court on Monday ordered Pyongyang to pay $501 million in damages for the torture and death of US college student Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 shortly after being released from a North Korea prison.
The judgment may be mostly a symbolic victory for now since North Korea has yet to respond to any of the allegations in court and there's no practical mechanism for forcing it to do so.
North Korea is liable for "the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier", said U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia's Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell's opinion.
"Having been compelled to keep silent during Otto's detention in North Korea in an effort to protect his safety, Otto's parents have since promised to "stand up" and hold North Korea accountable for its "evil" actions against their son".
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A few hours after Howell's opinion was published, President Donald Trump said Monday afternoon that he had been briefed by his team working on North Korea and he was looking forward to a second summit with Kim.
The arrest and death of Warmbier came during a time of heightened tension between the USA and North Korea over the isolated country's nuclear weapons program.
He returned home to die, in June, 2017, and the United States claimed that he had been physically tortured.
A District Court judge in Washington, DC, on Monday awarded the Warmbiers approximately half the $1.05 billion they requested in their punitive damages lawsuit in April.
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When his parents boarded a plane to see him upon arrival in the USA, they were "stunned to see his condition", according to court documents.
Warmbier was accused in January 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country. In early June 2017, his parents were informed he was in a coma and had been in that condition for one year. Their son was arrested in North Korea for allegedly stealing a political poster, forced to issue an apology on North Korean state TV during what's been called a "kangaroo court" session, and returned home 17 months later blind, deaf, and "jerking violently and howling" with "unrecoverable" brain damage.
"Otto's perfectly straight teeth had been rearranged to be misaligned, further indicative of the use of pliers or other tools to inflict that painful damage, plus the scar on his foot may have been caused by multiple applications of electrical shocks", the document states, alleging that he was likely tortured by the North Koreans.
Doctors in the USA concluded his brain damage was the result of a loss of blood flow to his brain for as long as 20 minutes, but the precise cause remains unclear.
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Medical experts in Cincinnati could find no evidence of botulism on his return. His family took him off life support after doctors concluded he was brain dead.