Spain: North Korea embassy intruder contacted FBI, judge says

Jose de la Mata believes all the identified suspects went to the US after the raid.

    Spain: North Korea embassy intruder contacted FBI, judge says
    A woman walks past North Korea's embassy in Madrid, Spain [File: Manu Fernandez/AP]

    A Spanish court has accused 10 people of forcing their way into the North Korean embassy in Madrid and trying to persuade an official there to defect.

    High Court judge Jose de la Mata, who on Tuesday lifted a secrecy order on the case, believes the group of intruders identified themselves as human rights campaigners during the assault, according to a document of Spain's High Court.

    A few days later their leader contacted the US agency, the FBI, to pass on information about the raid, a court document said.

    The document said it had found evidence of various crimes, including trespassing, injuries, threats and burglary committed by "a criminal organisation" at the embassy in Madrid.

    A judicial source told the Reuters news agency that the judge believes all the identified suspects went to the US after the raid and that he would request their extradition to Spain, where they could face up to 28 years in prison.

    State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said the US government was not involved in the raid, which Spanish High Court documents said involved a Mexican citizen who is a US resident and a US citizen, in addition to South Korean citizens.

    "The United States government had nothing to do with this," Palladino told a regular news briefing, stressing that the United States called for the protection of embassies, whichever country they belonged to.

    He referred questions about the investigation to Spanish authorities.

    The FBI said in a statement that it is "our standard practice to neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation", adding that the agency had a strong working relationship with Spanish law enforcement partners.

    Spain's Interior Ministry had previously said police were investigating an incident at the embassy on February 22, but gave no details except to say that a North Korean citizen had been injured and that no one had filed a complaint.

    A Mexican citizen who is a US resident, identified as Adrian Hong Chang, led the group, the Spanish High Court said in the document, based on the investigation of the incident.

    The group stole computers, hard disks and pen drives, it said. It was not clear how the court knew that the man had contacted the FBI.

    Three of the intruders took an embassy official into the basement and encouraged him to defect from North Korea. They identified themselves as members of a group who campaigned for the "liberation of North Korea", the document said.

    The Washington Post reported earlier this month that a dissident organisation called Cheollima Civil Defense had carried out the raid.

    Knives and fake guns

    The Spanish court document gave a detailed account of the intruders' movements before, as well as during the intrusion, including their stay in a hotel and purchases of knives, balaclava masks and fake guns.

    The group included a US citizen and South Korean citizens.

    There was no immediate comment on the matter from the US State Department or South Korea's Foreign Ministry. Spain's Interior Ministry declined to comment.

    The embassy raid occurred shortly before the February 27-28 summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Hanoi.

    The Mexican, Hong Chang, said he had carried out the raid voluntarily and he did not identify his companions, the court document said. The court identified the US citizen as Sam Ryu.

    The group kept embassy staff tied up for several hours and then searched the premises for arms before leaving, at which point they separated into four groups and headed to Portugal.

    Hong Chang then flew from Lisbon to New York.

    In Spain, the High Court has the power to investigate criminal offences, after which formal accusations are launched.

    SOURCE: News agencies