Christopher Ahn, a former U.S. marine accused of leading a February raid on the North Korean embassy in Madrid, was on Tuesday released on bail, a statement from his legal team said.
Ahn, who the U.S. government had previously argued represented a flight risk, will remain under house arrest “at an undisclosed location” pending hearings into his possible extradition to Spain.
Madrid has accused Ahn and several of his accomplices, which also include long-time North Korea human rights activist Adrian Hong, of a litany of crimes related to the February break-in, including “robbery with violence and intimidation” and torture.
With evidence gathered from police present at the scene of the raid, reports from paramedics, and CCTV footage — as well as the testimony of diplomatic staff at the DPRK embassy — Spain has charged the men with six violations of the country’s criminal code.
According to ABC Spain, National High Court Judge José de la Mata last month issued the fifth international arrest warrant in the case, this time for Charles Ryu, a high-profile North Korean defector who had only been recently identified as tied to the raid.
North Korea has condemned the break-in and called for Spanish authorities to carry out a full investigation into what its foreign ministry described as a “grave terrorist attack.”
Ahn’s organization — a self-declared North Korean “government-in-exile” known as Free Joseon — has denied the charges, claiming the raid was non-violent and that they were invited in by the diplomats at the embassy.
His legal team has also argued he faces retaliation from DPRK authorities should he be extradited.
“This case continues to unnecessarily endanger the life of an American veteran based on the statements of North Korean officials who lack all credibility,” a statement by his lawyer Naeun Rim to the Washington Post on Wednesday argued.
“While we will continue to challenge the extradition vigorously in court, the United States government has the power to end this whenever it wants.”
Ahn was released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, the statement from his legal team said, and is “not available for interviews at this time.”
“We will be back in touch next week about a possible press conference,” the statement added.
A federal judge last week ruled that Ahn could be released on a $1.3 million bail.
He will be required to use an ankle monitor, and will only be permitted to leave home for medical appointments and to attend church.
Family and friends who put up the bail, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jean Rosenbluth said last week, stood to risk losing the money should Ahn flee.
“I spent a lot of time reading about you and I’m confident you’re going to do the right thing,” Rosenbluth was quoted as having told the former marine, adding that she had seen evidence from U.S. authorities that his life was in danger from the DPRK government.
Bail cannot not typically used in extradition cases outside of “special circumstances,” which Judge Rosenbluth has determined apply to Ahn’s case due to the nature of the evidence gathered and the reported threat to his life should be extradited.
“A special circumstance arises from the fact that much of the evidence supporting the arrest warrant, complaint, and formal request for extradition comes from diplomatic officials of the North Korean government, a country with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations,” a copy of the Judge’s order seen by NK News reads.
“The FBI has confirmed that the North Korean government has threatened his life,” it continued. “[Ahn] reasonably argues that because Spain has diplomatic relations with North Korea, he faces a worse risk to his safety in that country than he does here, where it is much more difficult for North Koreans to enter.”
Under the terms of his bail on Tuesday, Ahn is not permitted to make contact with his alleged accomplice Adrian Hong, who is now on the run from the U.S. Marshals Service.
The whereabouts of his other accomplices is unknown, with the South Korea government telling NK News this week that it had not received a request to extradite Woo Ran-lee, an ROK national tied to the case.
“With regard to the issue, the… foreign ministry has no information on extradition request from the Spanish government.”
Featured image: Free Joseon