North Korea embassy raid suspect to be released from jail

Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-10 19:39:50-04

A man accused of participating in the brazen raid on North Korea’s embassy in Madrid will be released from jail, a California judge ruled Tuesday.

Christopher Ahn, who is wanted on Spanish charges connected to the raid, was arrested by US marshals in April in Los Angeles. He is expected to be freed in one to two weeks after securing $1.3 million bail, and will be confined mostly to his residence by a GPS-monitoring device.

Ahn has also surrendered his passport and agreed to not communicate with certain people associated with the Provisional Government of Free Joseon, the shadowy North Korean dissident group — formerly known as the Cheollima Civil Defense — that was behind the raid.

The release order follows a ruling last week in which Judge Jean Rosenbluth said Ahn should be granted bail in part because “the FBI has confirmed that the North Korean government has threatened his life.”

Rosenbluth said that Ahn would likely be granted bail if he were to await trial in Spain after being extradited there, as the US is seeking, though he is fighting that in part because of the threat from North Korea — Spain has diplomatic relations with North Korea, a country known for targeting enemies of its leader Kim Jong-Un — and Ahn had argued that he faces a greater threat in Spain than in the US.

Adrian Hong, the accused ringleader of the embassy raid, who is also wanted in the US on the Spanish charges, is in hiding from North Korean hit squads, his attorney has told CNN.

In an interview with CNN Wednesday, Ahn’s attorney Naeun Rim said “there’s absolutely a credible threat to his life” and argued against his extradition to Spain.

“There is a far greater presence, there are people on the ground (in Spain) who are connected to the North Korean government,” Rim said, invoking the case of Kim’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, who was murdered in broad daylight in a busy airport in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia on orders from the Kim regime, according to South Korean intelligence. “That is the danger that Mr. Ahn faces in Spain.”

Ahn is a former Marine and previously worked with Free Joseon when it helped move the son of Kim Jong Un’s half brother to a safe site after the North Korean leader allegedly ordered that half brother’s murder two years ago, according to a lawyer for the dissident group.

According to Spanish court documents, members of Free Joseon in February beat and handcuffed embassy employees before taking a senior official to a basement room and urging him to defect from North Korea. Members of the dissident group escaped from the compound in embassy vehicles with two thumb drives, two computers and two hard drives, the court documents say.

Lawyers for Ahn and Hong deny the Spanish allegations that they beat and tied up people inside the North Korean embassy. They claim they were non-violent and were invited in.