Christopher Ahn is worried about Kim Jong Un putting a target on his back.
“The court has recognized that there is a danger to my life and to those around me if I leave this country. Quite frankly, they’ve told me that that danger is here, in the United States and that that danger exponentially increases if I leave the country,” Ahn told Fox News.
“The fear is there.”
The Biden administration is trying to extradite the 39-year-old former U.S. Marine officer to what his supporters say is certain assassination by Kim Jong Un’s regime for his anti-regime activities. They are calling on the Justice Department to drop its attempt to pack Ahn up and ship him out of the country.
“The same Department of Justice that has told me that if I leave the country that I could be assassinated, is the same Department of Justice that’s trying to extradite me,” Ahn told Fox News. “It’s very disappointing.”
Ahn was arrested in 2019 as a member of the group Free Joseon. The group, whose name means “Free North Korea,” opposes the Kim regime and has helped several high-level North Koreans defect. He was allegedly part of a small group in the plan to help North Korea’s ambassador in Spain in Madrid to flee, but the diplomat had a last-minute change of heart. For his role, Ahn has been told Kim Jong Un has put a target on his back. His supporters fear that he could be taken out by a North Korean hit squad or even kidnapped if extradited, taken to Pyongyang for a show trial, and executed in public for his anti-regime activities.
“The whole reason why we went in there, and the whole reason why I participated is because I wanted to help people,” Ahn said.
Prosecutors are moving ahead based on a complaint from Spanish authorities. They claim that Ahn and the small group of activists broke into the embassy before tying up and beating some of the diplomats.
Christopher Ahn (U.S. Marine Corps)
But Ahn’s supporters say the activists were invited into the building as part of an agreed-upon plan with the North Korean diplomats inside.
The extradition process began during the Trump administration and has continued since, despite the Spanish complaint being entirely based on the claims of the North Koreans. Ahn and his legal team say Kim’s diplomats are not believable because they would have a life-and-death incentive to lie and deny they wanted to defect.
“If you actually look at what actually the evidence is and you use some common sense, it’s pretty obvious to tell which story is more believable,” Ahn says.
Ahn could not go into detail about what unfolded inside the embassy for legal reasons but told Fox News he went there because “people wanted to be helped. People wanted to choose a better life. They didn’t want to live under the regime of North Korea. They wanted something better for their children.”
“These people,” Ahn said, referring to Kim’s diplomats, “may be North Korean, but they are parents, and they love their children and they’ve been fed lies their entire life and they come to a Western country, and they realize that everything that they’ve been told are lies and they have to make a decision on what it is that they want to do for their children.
“I was asked to save these peoples’ lives.”
Cindy and Fred Warmbier, the parents of Otto Warmbier, appeared in court to support Ahn. They flew from their home in Ohio to Los Angeles on Ahn’s behalf.
Otto Warmbier was the 22-year-old college student, who, like Ahn attended the University of Virginia, and was falsely arrested, tortured and sent home to die by Kim’s regime in 2017. Since then, the Warmbiers have been outspoken critics of Kim Jong Un’s human rights record.
Cindy Warmbier brought the court to tears with her plea for Magistrate Jean Rosenbluth to drop the government’s extradition order.
“No one ever stands up to North Korea,” she told the court. “Well, I am standing up to North Korea. I am standing up for Chris Ahn, a good man. North Korea will kill Chris if he is extradited. Please stop this injustice.”
“I think the hardest part of the entire day yesterday was listening to Mrs. Warmbier talk about Otto,” Chris told us.
“It makes me so incredibly sad about what her, her family and Otto went through, and I feel so immensely blessed to have someone like her who has gone through such hard, hard times to be able to reach out to me and help me in my situation,” he said. “I can’t thank her and Otto and Otto’s family enough for supporting me.”
Another supporter who testified, Sung-Yoon Lee, the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy Kim Koo-Korea Foundation Professor in Korean Studies Professor, told Fox News that Chris could be vulnerable if the government is successful in booting him out.
“North Korea shows no qualms about going after its targets anywhere in the world, including Europe. And North Korea has shown that there is no expiration date on this assassination job. They are indefatigable. They don’t get tired. They will go and look for Christopher in Spain,” he said.
“This is a unique case, it’s even uniquely concerning. I would say this is the first-ever instance of the United States government executing an arrest warrant issued by another state, albeit a friendly ally, Spain, but a case that is almost entirely based on North Korean testimonies. What’s wrong with that? Well, we know that the North Korean state lies for a living.”
It is expected that Rosenbluth will take several weeks before she announces a decision on blocking or allowing Ahn’s extradition.
“What really kind of wins the day is morals and belief in our system of government and in our system of laws. And although I’m in this unfortunate situation, I still have faith in America and in the American people,” Ahn said.
“All I can do is have faith that in the end, logic and common sense, and people who care about what is going on will prevail.”
Fox News’ Ben Evansky contributed to this report.