(JTA) — President Donald Trump said that Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died earlier this year after being imprisoned in North Korea, had been “tortured beyond belief.”
Trump’s comment on Tuesday followed an interview with Warmbier’s parents on “Fox & Friends” in which they described their son’s condition when he was released in June.
“Otto had a shaved head, he had a feeding tube coming out of his nose, he was staring blankly into space, jerking violently,” Fred Warmbier said in the interview. “He was blind. He was deaf. As we looked at him and tried to comfort him, it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
On Twitter, Trump called the interview “great” and made the claim about North Korea torturing Warmbier, 22.
Warmbier died in the United States in June, days after after being sent back here in a coma. In 2016, North Korea sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster while on a student tour there. North Korea released Warmbier, saying his health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism. Warmbier’s doctors in the U.S. said he suffered extensive brain damage.
Prior to Warmbier’s death, JTA reported that he had been active in the Hillel at the University of Virginia. Following his death, it was revealed that his family hid their son’s Jewishness from the public as negotiations for his release took place.
A family spokesman, Mickey Bergman, told The Times of Israel that the family chose not to disclose Warmbier’s Jewish background as negotiations went forward so as not to embarrass North Korea, which had announced that Warmbier stole the poster on orders from the Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, Ohio.