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Sixteen present and former RCMP officers have been issued...

MONTREAL -- Sixteen present and former RCMP officers have been issued summonses on 40 charges related to alleged illegal activities during a period of intense separatist activity in the early 1970s.

The Quebec Justice Department filed the charges Friday, just two months after a commission of inquiry headed by lawyer Jean Keable recommended legal action against the officers.

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Keable was instructed by Premier Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois government shortly after it took office in 1976 to look into police operations during and after the 1970 'October Crisis' sparked by the terrorist abduction of British diplomat James Cross and the kidnap-murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte.

The charges Friday arose from three separate incidents in the early 1970s.

One involved break-ins at the offices of a computer company, Les Messageries Dynamiques, between August 1972 and January 1973, and the theft of computer tapes listing PQ members.

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Charges of breaking and entry and conspiracy were filed against Howard Draper, Dale Boire, Gilbert Albert, Gerard Boucher, Ken Burnett, Claude Vermett, Alcide Nowlan, Robert Potvin, Alcide Yelle, Maurice Goguen, and Kenneth Hollas. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment.

The Keable report cited several reasons given for the theft of the lists, ranging from an effort to identify whether the PQ had received funding from foreign powers to whether membership included federal government employees or terrorist elements.

Keable reported RCMP intelligence chief John Starnes had said the operation was legal, if 'highly disappointing' for its lack of informative material.

Summonses were issued also to Normand Chamberland, Richard Daigle, Bernard Dubuc and former mountie Donald McCleery on charges of conspiracy and arson in the May 9, 1972 burning of a barn in Ste. Anne de la Rochelle, Que. The charges were laid in Granby, Que.

Keable's four-year inquiry found the burning of the barn, which was owned by a commune frequented by several prominent members of the terrorist Front de Liberation du Quebec, had been planned to prevent meetings between the FLQ and radical American groups including the Black Panthers.

'We believe an operation such as the burning of the barn had more general objectives than just preventing a meeting,' the report said. 'It was aimed according to (some witnesses) to communicate a message and create havoc.'

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In the third incident the same four men, along with Claude Brodeur, were accused of possession of stolen goods and theft of dynamite in April 1972 from an explosives firm in St. Gregoire, Que.

On the dynamite theft, Keable noted the operation was 'an aggressive policy designed to thwart a fresh outbreak of terrorism in Quebec.'

He said testimony varied on the immediate purpose of the theft. Some witnesses said the dynamite was to be used to arm a presumed terrorist cell through a police source so that the members could be arrested in the act of anoperation.

Other witnesses said the dynamite was to be placed in the trunk of a car so the driver would be caught with the dynamite at the U.S.-Canada border.

Crown prosecutor Jean-Pierre Bonin said he expected the accused would appear in court 'within the next two months' to set a trial date.

RCMP Superintendent John Bentham, noting the matter was before the courts, refused comment on the charges. 'There have been no suspensions and no decision has been made concerning defense counsel,' he said in Ottawa.

The Keable report recommended federal, provincial and municipal police be held criminally responsible for clandestine operations and 'disruptive tactics' conducted against the PQ and several left-wing organizations.

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