Otto Warmbier Family Sues North Korea for 'Brutal' Murder of Their Son

The family of Otto Warmbier filed a lawsuit Thursday in a federal court against North Korea for the death of the 22-year-old U.S. college student, alleging that Kim Jong Un's dictatorial regime had brutally tortured and murdered their son when he was in custody.

Warmbier died in June days after being returned to the United States in a coma. The North Korean regime never provided an explanation of what happened to him while he was in custody or how he ended up in a coma. He had been arrested for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster from a hotel while on a school trip in Pyongyang.

After filing the lawsuit, Fred Warmbier issued a statement about his son's treatment in North Korea: "Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong Un. Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent while they intentionally destroyed our son's life. This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family."

The lawsuit comes just weeks before President Donald Trump is scheduled to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to discuss the country's nuclear weapons program. It was also filed just one day before a high-profile inter-Korea summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim, which is widely viewed as an important precursor to upcoming talks between Trump and the North Korean leader.

Some analysts have speculated that the timing of lawsuit could derail negotiations with North Korea by forcing the U.S. to take a harder line with Pyongyang. Trump has raised the issue of Warmbier's death on numerous occasions while discussing North Korea. He has also pledged to mention human rights violations in his meeting with Kim.

Experts say the suit will call attention to North Korea's long history of human rights violations and its imprisonment of U.S. citizens, which are occasionally forgotten as the world focuses on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

"The suit filed by the Warmbier family, timed perfectly to coincide with the inter-Korean summit, clearly demonstrates that there is much more to the North Korea challenge than simply nuclear weapons," Harry Kazinias, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, a public policy think tank in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek. "If Pyongyang wants to be treated like a normal state, it will have to act like one, and this lawsuit is a reminder of past crimes that can't so easily be washed away.

"Team Trump must ensure that as part of any possible agreement to hold a summit, all three Americans being held by North Korea are released—and are in good health—before there can be a summit. If not, President Trump should not meet with Kim. Period," Kazinias added.