North Korea accuses 'old lunatic' Trump of exploiting US student Warmbier's death

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ISTANBUL
Published 28.09.2017 14:43
Updated 28.09.2017 17:05
In this March 16, 2016, file photo, American student Otto Warmbier, center, is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo)
In this March 16, 2016, file photo, American student Otto Warmbier, center, is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo)

North Korea has accused Donald Trump of exploiting the death of American student Otto Warmbier, referring to the U.S. president as an "old lunatic" for alleging the 22-year-old was tortured while in Pyongyang's custody.

In a statement issued by the state-run KCNA news agency, North Korea's foreign ministry accused the US of "luring and pushing" Warmbier, who died days after being released from North Korea in a coma, into breaking the country's laws.

"Trump and his clique, for their anti-DPRK propaganda, are again exploiting the death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who had been under reform through labor for the criminal act he committed against the DPRK and died after returning to the U.S," it said, using the acronym for the North's official name.

In the statement, the North accused "an anti-DPRK conspiracy organisation in the US" of sending Warmbier to the country on a criminal "mission".

"The fact that the old lunatic Trump and his riff-raff slandered the sacred dignity of our supreme leadership, using bogus data full of falsehood and fabrications, only serves to redouble the surging hatred of our army and people towards the US and their will to retaliate thousand-fold," it said.

The statement came after an Ohio medical examiner said Wednesday that Warmbier, the American student who died days after being released from North Korea in a coma, displayed no obvious signs of torture despite assertions by his parents and President Donald Trump.

The coroner said the 22-year-old, who had been sentenced to 15 years hard labor while visiting the reclusive country, had suffered brain damage caused by the lack of oxygen to the brain.

Coroner Lakshmi Sammarco could not say what caused the injury.

The revelations came a day after Warmbier's parents and Trump accused the reclusive regime of torturing the young man, who had been convicted of trying to steal a propaganda poster from a Pyongyang hotel.

The parents, in a series of TV interviews Tuesday, said their son showed signs of torture, including teeth that appeared to have been "rearranged," and hands and feet that were disfigured.

"They kidnapped Otto, they tortured him, they intentionally injured him. They are not victims, they are terrorists," Fred Warmbier said on the program "Fox and Friends."

After the airing of the interview, Trump for the first time accused North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un's regime of torturing Warmbier.

Trump called the parents' interview with Fox "great" and said: "Otto was tortured beyond belief by North Korea."

But Sammarco, who examined Warmbier's body after his death in June, said there was no clear evidence of physical torture -- including no recently broken bones or damaged teeth.

"We don't know what happened to him. That's the bottom line," she said. "We're never going to know, unless the people who were there come forward and say, 'This is what happened to Otto.'"

Warmbier's body displayed only a few small scars, all but one of which could be traced to medical instruments, she said, adding that the Warmbiers' TV interviews had prompted her to publicly reveal her findings.

"They're grieving parents. I can't really make comments on their perceptions," she added.

Three Americans accused of various crimes against the state are behind bars in the North, which is engaged in a tense standoff with the Trump administration over its banned missile and nuclear weapons programs.

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