U.S. Court Orders North Korea to Pay $500 Million to Family of Jewish Student Otto Warmbier

The 22-year-old was imprisoned after trying to steal a propaganda poster; he died shortly after he was returned to his family in a coma and with severe brain damage

FILE PHOTO: Otto Warmbier being taken to North Korea's top court, Pyongyang, March 16, 2016.
\ KYODO/ REUTERS

A U.S. court ordered North Korea to pay $501 million to the family of Otto Warmbier, a Jewish student who died in 2016 after being imprisoned there.

A District Court judge in Washington, D.C., on Monday awarded the Warmbiers approximately half the $1.05 billion they requested in their punitive damages lawsuit in April.

Warmbier was accused in January 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country. He was imprisoned by the North Korean government and suffered severe brain damage, but there were no signs of physical trauma.

In June 2017, the 22-year-old student was evacuated in a coma in June and returned home to his family in Cincinnati. He died six days later in the hospital.

Warmbier was traveling to Hong Kong for a study abroad program when he decided to visit North Korea on a guided tour.

This year, a North Korean spokesman denied that Otto Warmbier had been tortured while in custody, Fox News reported.

His parents, Cindy and Fred Warmbier, accused North Korea of having “repeatedly lied about the causes of Otto’s condition” and of refusing “to acknowledge its abhorrent actions,” the lawsuit reads. “North Korea, which is a rogue regime, took Otto hostage for its own wrongful ends and brutally tortured and murdered him.”

The judge, Beryl Howell, ruled that the estate of Warmbier is entitled to $21 million in damages and $150 million in punitive damages. His parents are each also entitled to $15 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages.