(JTA) — An Ohio coroner said that a post-mortem examination of Otto Warmbier, the Jewish-American college student who died after being imprisoned in North Korea, did not show any obvious signs of torture.
The Wednesday statement contradicted President Donald Trump and Warmbier’s parents, who claimed the 22-year-old was tortured by North Korea. Trump said Warmbier “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Dr. Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, the Hamilton County coroner, painted a different picture.
“I felt very comfortable that there wasn’t any evidence of trauma” to the teeth or jawbone, Sammarco said Wednesday, according to CNN. “We were surprised at [the parents’] statement.”
Warmbier’s father, Fred, said Tuesday that his son’s “bottom teeth look like they had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged them.”
The parents opposed doing an autopsy on their son, so the coroner’s report and Sammarco’s statement were based on an external examination.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry, which has denied torturing Warmbier, shot back at Trump, calling the president an “old lunatic” in a Thursday statement, BBC reported.
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.