Judge Jean Rosenbluth

US Federal Judge Jean Rosenbluth’s statements regarding Christopher Ahn (5/2021):

“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.

Based on what I know, I believe that extraditing Ahn to Spain would be “antipathetic” to our common “sense of decency,” the standard first set out for a humanitarian exception to extradition.

I lay out here the reasons why I wish I could invoke a humanitarian exception to keep Ahn in the United States, and I humbly ask the Ninth Circuit to clarify that it didn’t mean to rule the exception out categorically. There would be no shame in that. Certainly no one could have ever imagined a case like this one, and the humanitarian exception deserves to be considered anew in its context.

At the time of the embassy raid he was in his late 30s and had no criminal record. He served his country honorably in the Marines for six years. A Medal of Honor winner who knows him calls him a “faithful and dutiful Marine” whose “life is predicated on honor and duty.” He has volunteered for many charitable organizations. Even the crimes with which Spain has charged him were almost certainly motivated by altruism — a desire to help the oppressed, brutalized, starved people of North Korea, who can’t help themselves — rather than greed or lust or power or addiction, the typical motivators of the criminal mind.

Yes, Ahn should have to face a court reckoning of some kind for possibly violating at least the letter of the law. But he should not be cast off to face an uncertain fate at the hands of a despot, perhaps sacrificed to advance a foreign-policy agenda. If I thought I could, I would require any trial of Ahn to be here in the United States, and I hope that a judge or judges tasked with fixing law instead of simply following it will do just that.

CONCLUSION Because I believe that Prasoprat and the other law by which I am bound does not foreclose a higher court, as opposed to a magistrate judge, from applying the humanitarian exception, I hold out some hope that this court will not become an “accomplice” to Ahn’s otherwise inevitable extradition. See From Thomas Jefferson to Edmond Charles Genet, 12 September 1793, Founders Online, Nat’l Archives (Jefferson observing that to deliver fugitives to countries where they would be mistreated was to become “accomplice” to that mistreatment). Cindy Warmbier said that Ahn needed a “strong woman” to “stand up to North Korea.” 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.