The family of an American college student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea spoke out a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said he takes Kim Jong Un’s word that he didn’t know about the mistreatment of their son.
In December 2015, Otto Warmbier, who was 21 at the time, was arrested in North Korea during an organized tour and charged with stealing a propaganda poster. He spent more than a year in jail on a 15-year sentence for hard labour before being sent back to his parents in July 2017.
Warmbier, who his family says was “brutally tortured” while in prison, was in a coma when he arrived back in the U.S. and died a few days later.
In a statement, his parents said they were “respectful during this summit process” but felt compelled to speak out following Trump’s statements.
“Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that.”
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After Warmbier’s death in 2017, Trump said he promised to “handle” North Korea.
During Trump’s 2018 State of the Union, he said Warmbier’s parents were “powerful witnesses” to North Korea’s horrors.
But speaking in Vietnam on Thursday, after his summit with Kim fell apart, Trump said he spoke with Kim about Warmbier’s death and the North Korean leader feels “badly about it.”
“I don’t believe he knew about it,” Trump said. “He tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word. It just wasn’t to his advantage to allow that to happen. Prisons are rough, they’re rough places, and bad things happened.”
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Trump followed up on his comment via Twitter on Friday, saying that he never likes “being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family.”
“Remember, I got Otto out along with three others,” Trump wrote. “The previous Administration did nothing, and he was taken on their watch. Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto’s mistreatment and death.”