Time Sensitive: Campaign to Protect

We need your help to show American leaders that this issue matters to our community, and that we stand for human rights and dignity for all who are oppressed in North Korea. Please send us an email at friends@freefj.is if you would be willing to give us your name, title, city, and state, to be included on a list of supporters, by Monday, November 11, 2019. We hope we can get the support of American leaders to stop the persecution of these men immediately.

This is the letter we would like to send, with your name, supporting the protection of Christopher Ahn and Adrian Hong:

To: Attorney General William P. Barr
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530

CC: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
US Department of State
2201 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Attorney General William P. Barr,

We are writing to express our alarm and deep concern at the recent actions the Department of Justice has taken against the members of Free Joseon, the North Korean Provisional Government, in relation to an incident at the Embassy of North Korea in Madrid, Spain On February 22, 2019. As you know, the Department of Justice has issued arrest warrants for several US persons in connection with this event, on behalf of the Kingdom of Spain and North Korea. These arrest warrants are not for alleged crimes committed on US soil or against the US, but for an extradition request from Spain which is based on little else than the lies of North Korean diplomats.

Free Joseon is the first known organized resistance movement against the totalitarian regime in Pyongyang. Free Joseon’s leaders have a long, consistent track record of human rights and humanitarian work. They have also protected refugees and facilitated defections of high-level elites from North Korea.

We respectfully request that you re-evaluate the decision to execute arrest warrants for these brave men, who should be offered protection by the United States government, not being sought as fugitives or criminals. It is unprecedented for the United States to issue warrants based on North Korean government allegations.

It now appears clear that the incident in Madrid involved the planned defection of one or more diplomats or family members residing in the North Korean embassy. A Los Angeles federal judge who has reviewed Spanish extradition papers and supporting evidence determined that claims against the members of Free Joseon are not credible because:

– “…nothing corroborates the most serious allegations…that he and/or other members of the group struck and injured some of the North Koreans inside the embassy. Although the formal extradition request includes photographs in support of other aspects of the case, it contains no photographs of any injuries, no medical records, and no non-North Korean witnesses’ statements attesting to any observable or other injuries.”

– “…a special circumstance arises from the fact that much of the evidence supporting the arrest warrant…comes from diplomatic officials of the North Korean government, a country with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations in part because its justice system, including pretrial investigations, is not trustworthy and does not comply with due process…. the Court could find no other case in which most of the evidence came from representatives of a government with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations.”

-The judge noted that the only witnesses to the incident were “…North Korean officials or their family members and that each of them was interviewed by the Spanish police in the company of a high-ranking North Korean diplomat at the embassy, who was not only present but acted as the interpreter.” These witnesses were undoubtedly under duress.

Moreover, we believe that the alleged actions of the group nevertheless distinctly qualify as “political acts” under internationally accepted standards governing extradition relationships between governments, and, as such, these warrants should have never been approved by the Department of State or issued by the Department of Justice to begin with.

We recognize that Spain may have had to facilitate these warrants out of their diplomatic obligations to North Korea. We also recognize the sensitive negotiations underway between the United States and North Korea. However, we believe that it is against the character of the United States to take part in the injustice being done to these men.

Four US persons have been named by Spanish authorities seeking extradition from the United States. None of these men are alleged to have committed any crimes in or against the United States. They and their families have been driven into hiding, unable to work, because of the exposure these warrants brought to them.

Adrian Hong, leader of Free Joseon, a long-term human rights activist responsible for countless rescues of North Korean refugees, including the high-profile rescue of the family of Kim Jong Nam (the half-brother of North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un) in the aftermath of his assassination by VX nerve agent deployed by foreign nationals who had been hired by North Koreans in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. Mr. Hong has had testimony entered into the United States Congressional Record and is one of the world’s leading advocates for human rights in North Korea, having founded an organization in 2004 that has rescued over 1000 refugees from North Korea. He was also responsible for the first successful resettlement of North Korean orphans to the United States in 2007 and was previously jailed in China in 2006 for helping North Korean refugees escape.

Christopher Ahn, an honorably discharged United States Marine who served in Fallujah, Iraq. Mr. Ahn also personally escorted the family of Kim Jong Nam to safety from Chinese territory after Kim’s assassination by North Korean agents in Kuala Lumpur in 2017. Mr. Ahn was arrested on April 18, 2019 and held in pretrial confinement in Los Angeles. He was released on bail on July 16, 2019, due to the federal judge citing “special circumstances” – the weaknesses of the evidence supporting arrest warrants, after being deprived of liberty for almost 90 days.

Cheol Ryu, a North Korean defector and orphaned survivor of North Korea’s inhumane detention camps, who later became an American citizen.

Sam Ryu, a human rights activist personally engaged in high-level defections and refugee protection around the world.

We recognize reports that Mr. Hong voluntarily met directly with the Federal Bureau of Investigation immediately after the Madrid incident. At the FBI’s request, Mr. Hong willingly gave electronics from the North Korean embassy, including a laptop taken from the secure communications room. Several intelligence experts and high ranking North Korean defectors have indicated that the computers and encryption equipment taken would represent a “game changer” in United States and United Nations efforts to track North Korean agents, assassins, sanctions violations, and weapons proliferation efforts worldwide.

As perverse reward for these critical contributions to human freedom and American national security, the FBI officially informed these four men in early April 2019, before Department of Justice warrants had been issued, that “credible, vetted threats” to their lives from Pyongyang had been intercepted by US intelligence.

We respectfully request clarification on how the meeting between Mr. Hong and the FBI, and the FBI’s subsequent possession of potentially invaluable electronics, came to be shared or made public, putting these men at greater risk. How would Pyongyang have known their identities and where the electronics were?

Subsequently, as the Department of Justice issued arrest warrants on behalf of Spain and North Korea in late April 2019, the names, faces, and families of these men came under worldwide scrutiny and attention. Shockingly, United States Marshals are now aggressively hunting these men on behalf of Pyongyang. The family of one of these men has shared that the Marshals threatened several times to place his toddler in foster care, and several other family members have been detained and questioned while handcuffed and at gunpoint. This is not behavior befitting the United States.

Further, these men are already at grave risk for standing up against the world’s only hereditary totalitarian regime, but will be defenseless if incarcerated, especially in Europe, where many North Korean diplomats and operatives reside and freely travel. As you know, in November 2018, North Korean agents kidnapped the daughter of a defecting diplomat in Italy. Intelligence experts have also spoken to North Korea’s willingness and ability to export harm and assassinations, including to prison facilities by way of local contractors and assistance from criminal partners.

We express our deep concerns that this chain of events not only will have significant chilling effects on the relationship between the United States and the leaders of a future, free North Korea, but will also dissuade others worldwide from taking brave risks to share critical information with the United States intelligence. Why would anyone share any information with the FBI relevant to national security if they have seen how these men have been outed and placed in grave danger by the United States as a result?

We have also heard from leading North Korean defectors and the Korean American community who have rallied in widespread support of Free Joseon and have been in shock and despair at the treatment of their compatriots at the hands of the United States.

We respectfully urge you to end the manhunt of these human rights activists and to allow them to return to their critical work, advocating for a free North Korea and helping refugees and defectors. We should be offering these men police protection, not hunting them down like criminals. Thank you for your thoughtful attention to this matter. We look forward to your response.