A former U.S. Marine who is an activist in a group advocating freedom for North Korea has had a target placed on his back by Kim Jong Un’s regime, a federal judge in Los Angeles has said.
“The F.B.I. has confirmed that the North Korean government has threatened his life,” U.S. Magistrate Jean Rosenbluth wrote in a motion to grant bail to Christopher Ahn. ” … He is apparently the target of a dictatorship’s efforts to murder him.”
The 37-year-old Ahn, who spent six years in the military and served in the Iraq War, was arrested in February as a member of the group Free Joseon. The group, whose name means “Free North Korea,” opposes the Kim regime and has helped some high-level North Koreans to defect. They even consider themselves the “Provisional government” of North Korea. That resistance has seemingly earned Ahn a death sentence from Pyongyang.
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Ahn and Free Joseon leader Adrian Hong, who remains at large, face extradition to Spain on charges that they broke into the North Korean embassy in Madrid before tieing up and beating some of the diplomats. Those claims, which Ahn and Hong deny, were the basis for Spain seeking their extradition.
Attorneys for Free Joseon blast the allegations of violence committed by Ahn and Hong as lies from Kim Jong Un’s diplomats, whom they say have to make up a story to save their own skins. The activists claim that they were invited into the embassy and spent hours inside with no problems. Videos viewed by Fox News show the activists calmly walking into the embassy, and one sitting in an office having a quiet chat with a member of Kim’s diplomatic corps. One unidentified activist takes the official photographs of Kim Jong Un and his father, Kim Jong Il from the wall, and smashes the portraits on the floor.
“It is completely unprecedented, and extremely sad and unfortunate, that the Department of Justice is — for the first time ever — is executing arrest warrants against U.S. citizens based on criminal complaints of North Korea, and based on the accounts of North Korean witnesses who we know not to be credible,” Hong’s attorney Lee Wolosky told Fox News earlier this year.
“There was no attack, there was no assault, there was no invasion of the embassy,” Wolosky said. He said that Kim’s diplomats are “terrified for their lives for engaging with an opposition group. They have made up a story of an assault.”
The activists returned to the United States and gave the F.B.I. computer thumb drives, computer discs and other sensitive material that they took from the embassy.
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But instead of being thanked by the U.S. government, they were charged.
“The group faces a threat, not only from North Korea, North Korea has apparently dispatched hit-squads against the members who have been outed, but also from the U.S. government,” said Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, the Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies and Assistant Professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.
“The group gave the FBI everything that they had taken from the embassy. This is a political resistance group and the United States government should not be quashing this group and what it stands for.”
In her order, which was unsealed Tuesday following a Friday hearing, Rosenbluth expressed doubts about the North Korean claims and noted that when the Spanish police interviewed the embassy’s officials and their family members, a high-ranking diplomat not only was present but also acted as the interpreter.
“The Court could find no other case in which most of the evidence came from representatives of a government with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations,” Rosenbluth wrote.
Ahn was granted bail on $1 million bond.
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“He seemingly has more reason to fear assassination or other harm from North Korea should he be returned to Spain,” the judge wrote.
Wolosky says that he is fighting for more than just bail for his clients.
“It’s time for these American citizens to be let go,” he says.
Fox News’ Ben Evansky contributed to this report