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Environmental activist long wanted in U.S. arson attacks surrenders
PORTLAND, Oregon |
PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - A Canadian environmentalist accused of taking part in a campaign of arson attacks across the U.S. West surrendered on Thursday after a decade on the run to face charges in what authorities call the "largest eco-terrorism case" in U.S. history.
Rebecca Jeanette Rubin turned herself in to FBI agents at the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. She is charged with helping set a wave of arson fires between 1996 and 2001 that were carried out by self-proclaimed members of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front.
"Rubin's arrest marks the end of her decade-long period as an international fugitive in the largest eco-terrorism case in United States history," the Justice Department statement said of the arson spree.
Officials have given no reason for her surrender.
Prosecutors said at the time that the case stood out for the number of fires set and damage caused, which was estimated at more than $40 million.
Rubin, 39, faces arson, destructive device and conspiracy charges in Oregon, California and Colorado. She was expected to make an initial court appearance in Seattle before she is returned to Oregon for trial in U.S. District Court.
The government indicted Rubin in 2006 of taking part in a conspiracy with 12 others involving 20 acts of arson.
She is charged with participating in a 1997 arson fire at a wild horse and burro facility belonging to the Bureau of Land Management in Burns, Oregon, that was set to retaliate for what the group believed was poor treatment of the horses.
Animals were set free and firebombs placed around the facility, according to a federal grand jury indictment.
She is also accused of participating in a 1998 attempted arson at the Medford, Oregon, offices of U.S. Forest Industries.
In Colorado, Rubin faces eight counts of arson for the 1998 firebombing of a Vail ski resort to stop an expansion that the group felt would encroach on a lynx habitat.
She is also charged with conspiracy, arson and using a destructive device in a 2001 fire at a Bureau of Land Management horse and burro facility near Susanville, California.
Ten of the other 12 defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy and multiple counts of arson in 2007 in Eugene, Oregon, while two, Joseph Dibee and Josephine Overaker, remain at large.
If convicted on all charges, Rubin could face a maximum penalty of hundreds of years in prison, although the other defendants were sentenced to between 37 to 156 months behind bars, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer said.
Rubin can consent to have the charges from the three states consolidated and be tried in Oregon, or she can be tried in each jurisdiction, Peifer said.
(Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Cynthia Osterman and Lisa Shumaker)
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