Ethereum and Bitcoin Magazine co-founder Vitalik Buterin signed a petition to free Virgil Griffith, who was arrested for assisting North Korea in eluding U.S. sanctions through cryptocurrency.

Buterin unleashed a series of tweets to defend Griffith on Sunday, repelling reports that he distanced himself and subsequently threw his arrested friend under the bus. The Russian-Canadian programmer then shared a link to a petition to free Griffith.

"I refuse to take the convenient path of throwing Virgil under the bus, because I firmly believe that that would be wrong. I'm signing. Reasoning below," Buterin tweeted.

Buterin also exculpated the Ethereum Foundation (EF) from Griffith's decision to take the trip in stating that EF "paid nothing and offered no assitance" for it but called it admirable nontheless.

"1. Geopolitical open-mindedness is a *virtue*. It's *admirable* to go to a group of people that one has been trained since childhood to believe is a Maximum Evil Enemy, and hear out what they have to say. The world would be better if more people on all sides did that," he wrote.

Griffith had nothing to gain for what he did in DPRK and that most of what Griffith taught are already publicly available and that there's no "advanced tutoring" or "weird hackery," according to Buterin.

Travel ban

Griffith, who holds a Singapore and U.S. citizenship, was denied permission to travel to North Korea, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney announced, which constitutes breaking federal law. DPRK is one of the countries that the U.S. bans its citizens from traveling.

"There are deliberate reasons sanctions have been levied on North Korea. The country and its leader pose a literal threat to our national security and that of our allies. Mr. Griffith allegedly traveled to North Korea without permission from the federal government, and with knowledge what he was doing was against the law," said FBI assistant director-in-charge William F. Sweeney Jr.

"We cannot allow anyone to evade sanctions, because the consequences of North Korea obtaining funding, technology, and information to further its desire to build nuclear weapons put the world at risk. It's even more egregious that a U.S. citizen allegedly chose to aid our adversary," he added.

Lazarus Group

Earlier this year, there were reports accusing DPRK of stealing cryptocurrencies from exchanges that amounted to $2 billion.  

And as recently as October, North Korean hacker group Lazarus was reported to have been targeting Mac users who work for crypto exchanges through a fake trading app.



Cryptocurrencies that depend on blockchain Litecoin, ripple and ethereum cryptocurrency 'altcoins' sit arranged for a photograph. Germany is investigating the use of blockchain, the tech that underpins cryptocurencies. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images