Otto Warmbier
Otto Warmbier Reuters

The parents of Jewish American college student Otto Warmbier filed a claim for a North Korean cargo ship seized by the U.S.

The claim filed in federal court in New York on Wednesday said the assets could be used to pay off part of a $501 million wrongful death judgment against the North Korean government for the death of their son. Their son was detained on trumped up charges in the country for over a year and died shortly after he was returned home in June 2017 in a coma.

The University of Virginia student had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. His doctors in the U.S. said he suffered extensive brain damage. Warmbier was traveling to Hong Kong for a study abroad program when he decided to visit North Korea on a guided tour.

“The Warmbiers are committed to holding North Korea accountable for the death of their son Otto, and will work tirelessly to seize North Korean assets wherever they may be found,” Ben Hatch, an attorney for the family, told The Associated Press in a statement.

The vessel was detained in May because it was carrying coal to be sold in other countries in violation of United Nations sanctions.

After the ship’s detention, senior Justice Department officials called the seizure the first of its kind, and said it was part of the U.S. campaign of “maximum pressure” against the North Korean government to stand-down as a nuclear weapons power.