North Korea demands US extradition of one of its embassy assailants in Madrid in 2019
The North Korean embassy in Spain has asked the U.S. government to extradite one of the people responsible for the attack on the diplomatic headquarters in Madrid February 2019, in which a group of men stole several computers and hard drives from the office.
Specifically, North Korea has demanded the extradition of former Marine Christopher Ahn, a U.S. citizen of North Korean descent living in the U.S., and who is under house arrest pending a decision on his extradition to Spain for trial.
“After the incident, the Spanish government asked, under the extradition agreement with the United States, to arrest and hand over criminals who have fled to the US. However, the U.S. has not intensified the investigations The North Korean Embassy’s communiqué, quoted by KCNA, reads: “It has neither intensified the investigations into the U.S. criminals involved in this case, nor handed over Christopher Ahn, whom it ‘arrested’ simply for form’s sake.
US considers that his life is in danger in Spain
Ann, who served in the US Marine Corps as deputy chief of Intelligence and Operations, was arrested in Los Angeles in April 2019, but after posting bail of 1.19 million euros, his house arrest was decreedwith a monitoring bracelet to prevent him from leaving the country.
In 2022, a U.S. judge authorized the extradition to Spain but asked a higher judicial body to halt it, considering that, as detailed in a 52-page brief to which Europa Press had access, although as far as her powers go she can only approve the order, she considers that Ann’s life is at risk and that could be killed in Spanish territory.
In its statement, the North Korean Embassy has accused the United States of “trying to build a public opinion that Christopher Ann has been ‘judged’ to be extradited, but it cannot be fulfilled once Secretary of State opposes the sentenceciting ‘safety of a U.S. citizen’ as a reason.”
“The U.S. claim that diplomats from hostile countries. are excluded from the rights and privileges exclusive to diplomats is a ‘gangster’ style violation of international law,” they added.
North Korea has ended the communiqué with a call to the Government of Spain to “make a positive effort to the prompt resolution of the caseo under the principle of independence and impartiality”.
The 2019 embassy raid
On February 22, 2019, a group of citizens of various nationalities and North Korean descent entered the North Korean Embassy in Madrid with the intention of stealing documents and information from the Asian country.
According to the investigation headed by the judge of the Audiencia Nacional José de la Mata, the leader of the gang would be Adrian Hong Chang, Mexican citizen with residence in the United States, and who met at the Embassy weeks before the assault with the ‘number one’ of the North Korean diplomatic representation in Spain, the charge d’affaires of the delegation Yun Sok So.
According to statements by Yun Sok So, during the Adrian Hong Chang meeting. used a false name and discussed business matterswithout arousing suspicion. On February 22, the assailants showed up at the compound, where the business manager also lives with his wife and son, and tied up several of the workers.
The North Korean diplomat claimed that he received several blows and was locked in the basement of the building.where the assailants allegedly asked him to defect from North Korea, something he claims he refused to do.
Finally, the assailants, some of whom have not yet been identified, stole several computers and hard drives and fled from the Embassy to Portugal, and from there flew to the United States. After their arrest, the U.S. authorities handed over the stolen material to the North Korean Embassy in Spain.
The investigation points to the fact that this information theft could have something to do with the meeting that just five days later was scheduled between then U.S. President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un, in Vietnam.
North Korea has accused U.S. intelligence services of being the. masterminds of the assaultin order to obtain as much information as possible about their country before the meeting.
The suspects in the raid are members of the self-styled dissident group Cheollima Civil Defense (CCD)also known as Free Joseon, which seeks to overthrow the leadership of the current North Korean leader.