US judge orders North Korea to pay $500M in student's death

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Though foreign nations are generally immune from being sued in US courts, Howell cited several exceptions that she said allowed the case to move forward and for her to hold North Korea liable. Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week after nearly a year and a half in captivity, died Monday, June 19, his family said.

This story is still developing.

Howell added that Warmbier's testimony in North Korea appeared to be staged and that he had been forced to memorize the words. "However, we provided him with honest medical care on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his failing health until he returned to the U.S.", North Korea said in September previous year.

"North Korea is liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier", Howell wrote.

US President Donald Trump said Otto was "tortured beyond belief" by North Korea.

The verdict has only symbolic value, since there is no possibility of North Korea to force actually to pay.

"We are thankful that the United States has a fair and open judicial system so that the world can see that the Kim regime is legally and morally responsible for Otto's death", Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement they had promised their son justice.

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Howell awarded $15 million to each of Warmbier's parents for the emotional anguish of living through their son's disappearance, detention and death.

"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", reads Howell's opinion.

The lawsuit was brought on the Warmbiers' behalf by Richard Cullen, a prominent Virginia lawyer and former US attorney.

Howell's ruling does not guarantee an immediate windfall for the Warmbiers, however. He was imprisoned by the North Korean government and suffered severe brain damage, but there were no signs of physical trauma.

"It's important to send a signal", said Jim Feinerman, associate dean for graduate and worldwide law and a professor of Asian legal studies at Georgetown's law school, especially in such a horrific case. He died less than a week after arriving in the U.S. North Korea's position on the question has changed little from a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) statement released February, which accuses "the Trump clan" of "intentionally stoking up the anti-DPRK smear campaign" over Warmbier's death, "tarnishing" North Korea's "international image and finding an excuse for intensifying the global pressure campaign"; in other words, the USA is just as ready to use the Warmbier's family tragedy for political ends.

"Otto's perfectly straight teeth had been rearranged to be misaligned, further indicative of the use of pliers or other tools to inflict that painful damage, plus the scar on his foot may have been caused by multiple applications of electrical shocks", the document states, alleging that he was likely tortured by the North Koreans.

Feinerman said there's a delicate diplomatic balance in such cases.

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