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26 June 2017, 03:28 | Laverne Osborne
US student Otto Warmbier seen here in February 2016 was arrested for committing hostile acts against North Korea
North Korea on Friday accused the United States of waging a "smear campaign" over the death of an American student who was detained for more than a year and sent back home in a coma.
A long line of mourners waited to enter funeral services early today for Otto Warmbier, the U.S. student imprisoned in North Korea who returned home last week in a coma that proved fatal.
In North Korea's first public comment on Warmbier's death, a spokesman for North Korea's foreign ministry saidclaims that Warmbier was beaten and tortured in captivity were "groundless".
After he returned to OH, doctors determined he had suffered a "severe neurological injury" of unknown cause. He spent more than a year in a North Korean prison after being sentenced to 15 years of prison and hard labor for allegedly stealing a political propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel in January 2016.
Warmbier was traveling in North Korea with a tour group, and was arrested at Pyongyang airport as he was about to leave. A spokesman for the family said this week that they chose not to disclose his Judaism during negotiations for his release so as not to antagonize North Korea. "To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident".
The spokesman said North Korea could not understand why Mr. Warmbier died so suddenly after returning home because his health indicators were "normal" upon his release.
The exact cause of Warmbier's death remains unclear.
On Thursday, approximately 2,500 people gathered to pay their respects at Otto's high school near Cincinnati.
Kenneth Bae, an American who was jailed for almost two years in North Korea, told CNN he believed Warmbier could have been tortured, and cautioned other Americans against going to North Korea.
Last week, the North Korean government allowed a State Department official to secure Warmbier's homeward transfer on "humanitarian grounds in consideration of his bad health".
Ria Westergaard Pedersen, 33, who was with Warmbier in North Korea, told the Danish broadcaster TV2 that he had been nervous when taking pictures of soldiers, and said she doubted North Korea's explanation for his arrest.
The article also criticized South Korea for using Warmbier's case to seek the release of other detainees, including six South Korean nationals.
Earlier this week, President Trump said China has tried to help the United States solve increasing tensions with North Korea, but "it has not worked out".
US President Donald Trump has condemned the "brutality" of the North Korean regime and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson vowed to hold Pyongyang accountable for the death.
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