Cuban authorities apprehended a Seattle man on Friday, Aug. 10, after he had ben on the run for 12 years from a 2006 indictment that linked him and 12 other co-defendants to a string of ecologically motivated arsons across the Pacific Northwest.
Federal prosecutors indicted Joseph Mahmoud Dibee and 12 others in 2006 on charges of conspiracy to commit arson and dozens of counts of arson. In a long and self-congratulatory press release from the District of Oregon’s U.S. Attorney’s Office, the government said that Dibee was travelling through Central America with the end destination of Russia, but made a stop in Cuba, where he was detained by Cuban authorities.
Critics of the government’s case say that Dibee and his co-defendants are victims of the “Green Scare,” or as the Civil Liberties Defense Center defines the term, “the government’s unconstitutional attack on environmental and animal rights activists” as it labels the eco-saboteurs “terrorists.”
“As usual, the state is using terrorism rhetoric to attempt to bias the judicial process against individuals accused of property damage crimes that were not intended and did not cause harm to any humans or animals,” Lauren Regan, the director of the Civil Liberties Defense Center writes in a press release.
The government repeatedly referred to Dibee as a “domestic terrorist” in its press release.
Arson was the primary tactic of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) as well as the Animal Liberation Front, to which the sabotage was attributed, and no one was physically harmed in any of the fires. Rebecca Rubin, who was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2014 and was the most recent co-defendant sentenced, released wild horses that were being held for slaughter at an Oregon Bureau of Land Management facility as well as one in California. Other co-defendants in 2007 received sentences between a little over three years to 12 years.
In an unlikely partnership, Cuban authorities helped return Dibee to the United States. According to the government press release, he will face charges in Oregon, Washington and California.
The scope of the eco-saboteurs’ actions listed in the indictment was vast, and the government says that Dibee and the other co-conspirators caused at least $45 million in damages between 1995 and 2001. According to the indictment, in addition to freeing wild horses and burning a horse slaughterhouse, the actions included arsons in Eugene at the Childers Meat company in 1999, at Romania SUV lot in 2001 and the attempted arson of a Eugene Police Department substation near the University of Oregon campus in 2000. Many of those indicted had Eugene ties.
Dibee made an appearance in an Oregon district court on Friday where a U.S. magistrate judge granted the government’s request that he be detained.