Christopher Ahn, a former U.S. Marine involved in the daytime raid of North Korea’s embassy in Madrid in February was released on bail this week to live in home confinement in California as he awaits possible extradition to Spain.
Ahn’s lawyer, Naeun Rim, said in a statement: “This case continues to unnecessarily endanger the life of an American veteran based on the statements of North Korean officials who lack all credibility. While we will continue to challenge the extradition vigorously in court, the United States government has the power to end this whenever it wants.”
“It’s a sea change in the legal proceedings and public narrative out there,” said Sung-Yoon Lee, a North Korea expert at Tufts University who has been following the case. “Most people were convinced they had broken in and used some egregious violence and now it appears that there’s no evidence.”
Ahn’s lawyers have said that accusations of violence against the North Korean officials are inaccurate and are based on unreliable claims by the North Koreans. Spanish authorities had accused the group of breaking into the Madrid Embassy, tying up the staff, beating them and stealing laptops, phones and documents, but before allowing Ahn’s release, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth noted that “nothing corroborates the most serious allegations” against Ahn that he and other assailants “struck and injured some of the North Koreans inside the embassy.”
Henry Song, a Washington-based North Korea activist, said Ahn’s release was good news for defectors who support efforts to undermine Kim Jong Un’s regime. “He is a hero,” Song said, urging the United States not to extradite Ahn to Spain.
Adrian Hong Chang, an alleged accomplice of Ahn who is accused of masterminding the raid, is on the run from U.S. authorities. Hong is in hiding because of potential safety threats by North Korean agents, said his lawyer, Lee Wolosky.