By Linda Friedman Ramirez*
On July 2, 2019, the Honorable Jean Rosenbluth, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Central District of California, found clear and convincing evidence allowing for the release of realtor Christopher Philip Ahn on conditions of extradition. A release pending hearing in an international extradition case is rare, due to the Court’s desire to fulfill treaty obligations. In this case Ahn, a U.S. citizen and former Marine, was charged with participating in an armed attack on the North Korean Embassy in Madrid, Spain on February 22, 2019.
A provisional arrest warrant was issued on April 11, 2019 by the Central Court of Investigation No. 5 in Madrid, Spain. Ahn was arrested in California on April 18, 2019. The Kingdom of Spain seeks his extradition pursuant to the Spain Extradition Treaty between the United States and Spain, signed January 25, 1975, and the supplementary treaties entered into thereafter.
Ahn was arraigned on April 19, 2019 in the U.S. District Court on a Complaint for Provisional Arrest with a View Toward Extradition and ordered to be detained. Spanish authorities claim Ahn was part of a group that entered the North Korean Embassy by force, assaulted staff, and stole property and vehicles. The Government of the Kingdom of Spain filed a formal request for extradition on June 28, 2019.
Trial Counsel Naeun Rim of Bird Marella, Los Angeles, sought the Court’s reconsideration of an initial order of detention on behalf of Ahn. After considering extensive briefing and oral argumentation, the Court ruled on June 18, 2019 that a “special circumstance” for release did exist, due to the fact that much of the evidence supporting the arrest warrant and complaint had come from diplomatic officials of the North Korean Government. The Court noted that the United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, in part because its justice system is not trustworthy and does not comply with due process. The Court, however, found that Ahn was a flight risk, because he is a part of an “underground railroad” that has helped at least one person and his family flee North Korean authorities and hide without detection. In addition, the Court considered confirmed death threats against Ahn from the North Korean Government as an incentive to flee. While release on condition that Ahn could not possess a firearm might enhance his incentive to flee, the Court did not find that Ahn was a danger to the community.
Again, Ahn’s counsel sought reconsideration of the Court’s order regarding flight risk. At a hearing on June 28, 2019, the counsel was able to overcome the hurdle of satisfying the Court regarding Ahn’s potential for flight. The Court ordered that Ahn post property totaling $1 million, third-party appearance bonds totaling $180,000, and release to the custody of three people who face criminal prosecution should Ahn flee or otherwise violate the conditions of his release. Judge Rosenbluth noted that without the latter, posting of property alone would have been inadequate.
The Court cited Wright v Henkel for the proposition that pretrial release in foreign extradition cases is generally not appropriate. However, Wright v Henkel is also known for having created the judicial concept of “special circumstances.” A formal extradition hearing is now scheduled for January 10, 2020.
* Linda Friedman Ramirez is in private practice in St. Petersburg, Florida.
 In the Matter of the Extradition of Christopher Phillip Ahn, No. 2:19-cv-05397-JFW-JPR (Doc 58), (C.D. Cal.July 2, 2019) Ahn was not released until July 10, 2019.
 In the Matter of the Extradition of Christopher Phillip Ahn, No. 2:19-cv-05397-JFW-JPR (Doc 55-3), (C.D. Cal.July 2, 2019)
 The Government on behalf of the Kingdom of Spain sought permission to redact documents.
 In the Matter of the Extradition of Christopher Phillip Ahn, 2:19-mj-01523-DUTY-1 (C.D. Cal. June 18, 2019.)
 Ahn is alleged to be part of a network that helped extract Kim Han Sol from North Korea, after Kim Han Sol’s father — Kim Jong Nam— a half- brother of Kim Jong-un – was assassinated by a VX nerve agent.
 In the Matter of the Extradition of Christopher Phillip Ahn, No. 2:19-cv-05397-JFW-JPR (Doc 58.) (C.D. Cal.July 2, 2019)
 “The demanding government, when it has done all that the treaty and the law require it to do, is entitled to the delivery of the accused on the issue of the proper warrant, and the other government is under obligation to make the surrender; an obligation which it might be impossible to fulfil if release on bail were permitted. The enforcement of the bond, if forfeited, would hardly meet the international demand; and the regaining of the custody of the accused obviously would be surrounded with serious embarrassment.” Wright v Henkel, 190 U.S. 40, 62 (1903)
 “We are unwilling to hold that the circuit courts possess no power in respect of admitting to bail other than as specifically vested by statute, or that, while bail should not ordinarily be granted in cases of foreign extradition, those courts may not in any case, and whatever the special circumstances, extend that relief.” Ibid. at 63