Christopher Ahn, a U.S. Marine veteran, was arrested in connection with a February raid of the North Korean embassy in Spain.

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Marine veteran arrested in connection with North Korean embassy raid

April 22, 2019 - 3:08 pm
Categories: 

By Ben Krimmel

U.S. authorities have arrested a Marine veteran in connection with a February raid at North Korea's embassy in Madrid when masked assailants tied up staff, stole computers and mobile phones, before fleeing in two luxury vehicles.

Christopher Ahn was arrested April 18 and appeared in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Friday, April 19, where his attorney successfully argued the case be sealed, over the government's objections, The Washington Post reported.

Ahn is a former U.S. Marine and member of Free Joseon, a secretive dissident organization dedicated to the overthrow of North Korea’s Kim Dynasty which sees itself as a government-in-exile. The specific charges filed against him are unknown.

Separately, federal agents raided the apartment of Adrian Hong, a leader of the Free Joseon group, Thursday, The Post reported.

Hong’s lawyer, Lee Wolosky, said he was “dismayed that the U.S. Department of Justice has decided to execute warrants against U.S. persons that derive from criminal complaints filed by the North Korean regime,” in a statement to The Post. Hong was not arrested.

Despite the group's concerns that anyone arrested in connection with the raid may end up facing punishment in North Korea, a Justice Department spokeswoman said extradition treaties "generally provide that an individual who has been extradited to another country to face criminal charges cannot thereafter be extradited to a third country without the consent of the original country.”

The group claimed responsibility for the brazen daylight raid last month and sought to assist U.S. authorities by handing over stolen items from the embassy which they said potentially had “enormous” intelligence value.

According to Spanish media reports, on February 22, a group of at least 10 people stormed the embassy and allegedly restrained and physically beat some embassy personnel before interrogating them and holding them hostage for hours. When a woman reportedly escaped, her screams for help alerted a neighbor, who called the police. After authorities arrived at the embassy, a man at the door told them there was no problem before the embassy's gates opened and the assailants fled in two luxury cars.

Investigators in Spain said the intruders removed computers and hard drives before fleeing to the U.S. and handing over the material to the FBI, raising claims of the U.S. government's involvement in the raid.

The group has denied harming embassy workers: “All occupants in the embassy were treated with dignity and necessary caution.” They also said “no other governments” had prior knowledge of the raid, refuting reports from Spain alleging CIA involvement.

State Department spokesperson Robert Palladino said the U.S. government "had nothing to do with" the incident.

According to Wolosky, Ahn has previously been involved in the group's activities, including their evacuation of Kim Jong Un's nephew from Macau in 2017 following potential threats to his life. The nephew was the son of Kim Jon Nam, half-brother of the North Korean leader, who was assassinated in a nerve-gas attack in a Malaysian airport.

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Related: