North Korea rebuttal: Otto Warmbier's death 'a mystery'

North Korea has accused the U.S. of conducting a smear campaign against the regime over Otto Warmbier, the American student who was sent home in a coma after 17 months in prison.

Mourners have paid their respects to an American college student who was detained in North Korea for over a year and died shortly after being returned home to OH in a coma.

The 22-year-old died in an OH hospital on Monday after North Korea released him for what they described as humanitarian reasons. Though his family said they were told Warmbier had fallen into the coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill, US doctors believed that Warmbier had been beaten and suffered massive brain damage.

U.S. President Donald Trump blamed "the brutality of the North Korean regime" for Warmbier's death and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who had advocated dialogue with the North, said Pyongyang had a "heavy responsibility" in the events leading up to the American's death.

When Warmbier returned to the US, he was in a coma.

A separate KCNA article published hours earlier criticised South Korea for using Warmbier's case to seek the release of other detainees, including six South Korean citizens.

After worldwide outrage and over a year of imprisonment, North Korea released Warmbier last week, saying his health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism.

"The smear campaign against (North Korea) staged in the U.S. compels us to make firm determination that. we should further sharpen the blade of law", the foreign ministry spokesman said according to state media.

United States doctors say there is no evidence he suffered from botulism, and the Warmbier family believe he died as a result of "awful torturous mistreatment".

17 months of detention in the North for taking down a political propaganda sign from a hotel.

They rejected claims the student had been tortured during his time in captivity in North Korea, where he was accused of espionage.

American student Otto Warmbier, center, is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea. US Ambassador Joseph Yun, who helped with Warmbier's release, also attended, as did Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

President Trump said on Monday North Korea's authorities were responsible for the student's death, stressing that his administration planned to prevent any new such incidents.

They say there was no evidence he suffered from botulism.

Officials at the University of Cincinnati Medical Centre, where he was treated, declined to provide details, and his family asked the Hamilton County coroner not to perform an autopsy.

Mr. Warmbier was arrested in the North in January 2016 while visiting the country on a tourist visa.

  • Leroy Wright