The parents of Otto Warmbier issued a blistering statement Friday saying Kim Jong Un and his government "are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity" after President Donald Trump asserted that the North Korean dictator had been unaware of the harrowing treatment the student endured while detained there.
"We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto," Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement. "Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that."
Warmbier was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016. The University of Virginia student from Ohio was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, but was released after 17 months.
His parents were told he had been in a coma since not long after he was sentenced. When he was brought back to Cincinnati after his release, his father said he "was jerking violently, making these inhuman sounds.”
“He was blind, he was deaf," Fred Warmbier had said.
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"After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor before returning him to America last June, horribly injured and on the verge of death," Trump said at the time. He asked the emotional Warmbiers to stand up for applause, and called them "incredible people."
"You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength truly inspires us all. Thank you," he said to them.
The president responded to the criticism in a Twitter thread on Friday, claiming his words were misinterpreted.
"I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family," Trump tweeted. "Remember, I got Otto out along with three others. 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. Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!
The president continued that : "Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!"