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Cuba hands over eco-terrorism suspect to U.S. officials

By Sommer Brokaw
Cuba hands over eco-terrorism suspect to U.S. officials
Cuban authorities have apprehended eco-terrorism suspect Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 50, of Seattle, nearly 13 years after he fled the United States, the FBI announced Friday. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Justice

Aug. 11 (UPI) -- Cuban officials have handed over to U.S. law enforcement a U.S. eco-terrorism suspect who was on the run for nearly 13 years , authorities said.

Officials apprehended Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 50, of Seattle, while he was about to board a plane from Cuba to Russia on Thursday and handed him over to U.S. officials to face federal criminal charges in Oregon, California, and Washington, the Justice Department announced Friday.

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"This action is based on Cuba's strict compliance with its international legal obligations and existing bilateral agreements with the United States in the area of law enforcement, as well as on the cooperation that both governments are developing on that front," a Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said, regarding the transfer of an unnamed U.S. citizen wanted on criminal charges.

Dibee is charged in Oregon federal with one count of conspiracy to commit arson, one count of conspiracy to commit arson and destruction of an energy facility and one count of arson. He faces similar charges in the U.S. Western District of Washington and U.S. Eastern District of California.

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He made an appearance in court in Portland, Ore., on Friday and pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces there.

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Dibee and four co-conspirators from the eco-terrorism groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front are accused of setting fire to the Cavel West horse meatpacking plant and slaughterhouse in Redmond, Ore., in 1997, the University of Maryland's Global Terrorism Database shows. There were no casualties, but it caused more than $1 million in damage and forced the facility out of operation.

Dibee fled the United States in December 2005, the year before a federal grand jury in Oregon indicted him and 11 suspected co-conspirators under the FBI's Operation BACKFIRE investigation of domestic terrorism tied to the eco-terrorism group, Justice Department officials said.

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The Justice Department has linked Dibee and his co-conspirators, known as "the Family," to more than 40 criminal acts between 1995 and 2001 that resulted in $45 million in damages.

One fugitive remains at large from Operation BACKFIRE. Law enforcement officials believe Josephine Sunshine Overaker, a U.S. citizen who is 43 or 46 years old, fled to Europe in late 2001.

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