Otto Warmbier's parents Cindy and Fred
Otto Warmbier's parents Cindy and Fred Reuters

A federal judge ordered the North Korean government to pay over $500 million to the family of Otto Warmbier over the student's wrongful death after his imprisonment by the hermit kingdom.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the District of Columbia District Court wrote in his opinion that North Korea is liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier, and the injuries to his mother and father, Fred and Cindy Warmbier."

“Before Otto traveled with a tour group on a five-day trip to North Korea, he was a healthy, athletic student of economics and business in his junior year at the University of Virginia, with ‘big dreams’ and both the smarts and people skills to make him his high school class salutatorian, homecoming king, and prom king," Howell continued. “He was blind, deaf, and brain dead when North Korea turned him over to U.S. government officials for his final trip home.”

Otto Warmbier, a Jewish student at the University of Virginia, was arrested in 2015 for allegedly trying to take a propaganda banner from an area reserved for North Korean staff and forbidden to foreigners at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, where he was staying as part of a New Year’s tour group. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

After 17 months in prison, Warmbier was released by the North Korean government and returned home. However, he was returned in a coma and soon died.

Otto's parents have held North Korea responsible for their son's death and accuse the government of torturing him.

They have sought $1 billion in damages from North Korea.