The U.S. government this week arrested several U.S. nationals linked to the mysterious February break-in at North Korea’s embassy in Madrid, a statement by a lawyer representing the accused confirmed on Friday.
A statement carried on the website of Free Joseon — the group that last month claimed responsibility for a raid on the DPRK embassy in the Spanish capital — expressed “dismay” at the decision.
“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,” Ambassador Lee Wolosky, speaking on behalf of the group, said.
Thursday’s arrests mark the first in the case since Spain’s High Court last month publicly named several suspects it said were involved in the raid, including several U.S. nationals.
The court said the group had identified themselves as “members of an association or movement of human rights for the liberation of North Korea” and during the attack had also attempted to persuade the DPRK commercial attache to defect.
The group was confirmed to have been led by Adrian Hong, a long-time North Korea human rights activist and Mexican national, and was reported to have stolen electronic equipment and assaulted the embassy’s staff — reports on Friday suggested that equipment has now been returned to the DPRK mission.
Madrid will purportedly seek the extradition from the U.S. of the ten suspects, including Adrian Hong Chang and the Americans and South Koreans, and it remains unclear what, if any, criminal complaints have been filed by the North Korean government, as the Friday statement by Free Joseon’s attorney appears to suggest.
North Korea last month condemned the raid, calling for Spanish authorities to carry out a full investigation into what they described as the “grave terrorist attack” and “a grave breach of the state sovereignty.”
Friday saw the Washington Post report, citing sources, that federal authorities had raided Hong’s home, as well as taken into custody Christopher Ahn, a former U.S. marine tied to the group.
Ahn appeared in court on Friday, Reuters said, having been arrested the previous day, with Ambassador Wolosky on Friday suggesting in a statement that the arrests risked jeopardizing the lives of the accused.
“The last U.S. citizen who fell into the custody of the Kim regime returned home maimed from torture and did not survive,” he said, a reference to the 2017 case of Otto Warmbier, an American tourist who died after returning from 17 months’ captivity in the DPRK.
“We have received no assurances from the U.S. government about the safety and security of the U.S. nationals it is now targeting.”
The U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to NK News‘s requests for further information on the arrests, or on whether there was any risk that the accused would be extradited to North Korea.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Gran Vía (Madrid) by felipe_gabaldon on 2009-01-08 18:45:50