A California federal judge appealed this week for a higher court to overturn her order allowing the extradition of a former US Marine to Spain, citing fears he will be abducted and murdered by North Korea for taking part in a raid on Pyongyang’s Madrid embassy three years ago.
US Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth wrote in her order that Christopher Ahn could face death if sent back to Europe to face trial for taking part in the daring February 2019 operation.
“In part because of his participation in the embassy incident, North Korea wants to kill Ahn. I must decide whether to certify his extradition to Spain, where North Korea can much more easily murder him,” she said in the order issued Monday in US District Court in the Central District of California.
“Although I conclude that the law requires me to certify, I do not think it’s the right result, and I hope that a higher court will either tell me I’m wrong or itself block the extradition,” Rosenbluth added.
Ahn will be placed in the custody of a federal marshal to await the final decision on his extradition by the Secretary of State, according to NK News, which first reported on the order.
US authorities arrested Ahn in April 2019 in response to a request from Spanish law enforcement.
According to Spanish authorities, Ahn was among a group of 10 people who stormed the North Korean embassy, beat some of the personnel and removed computers and hard-drives before fleeing to the US.
Ahn and Adrian Hong, the leader of Cheolima Civil Defense — a group also known as Free Joseon that seeks to overthrow North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — disputed the contention that they intended to raid the embassy, saying they were there at the invitation of someone who wanted to defect.
In her order, Rosenbluth noted that while Spain has an extradition agreement with North Korea, the US considers the Kim regime a state sponsor of terrorism.
“I hold out some hope that this court will not become an ‘accomplice’ to Ahn’s otherwise inevitable extradition,” the judge wrote, adding: “I regret that I am too weak, in power if not in will, to save him from the threat of torture and assassination by that outcast nation.”