Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

Wiebo Released Without Charge

Oilpatch activist released in pipeline bombings case
By Laura Drake and Richard Warnica,
Canwest News Service
January 9, 2010

GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. — After hours of police interrogation, controversial oilpatch activist Wiebo Ludwig walked out of an Alberta police station facing no charges Saturday — a day after he was arrested in connection with a series of pipeline bombings.

Ludwig, 68, said the RCMP told him they have physical evidence linking him to several threatening letters that were sent to a local newspaper following six pipeline and wellhead bombings in the past 15 months in nearby northeastern British Columbia.

“They apparently think that they might have DNA evidence on me,” he Edmonton radio station CFCW. “Not for the bombings but for touching the notes that were sent.”

Ludwig, who has in the past been convicted for oilpatch vandalism, was arrested Friday in Grande Prairie, Alta. He told his lawyer he was facing a charge of extortion related to the bombings.

On Saturday, the RCMP said they have “recently collected evidence” which will be forwarded to the B.C. Crown.

“Discussions with B.C. Crown counsel continue to determine what charges, in any, could apply,” said the statement.

Investigators with the RCMP planned to remain at Ludwig’s vast farm property in nearby Hythe, Alta., on Saturday to continue their search for more evidence.

Ludwig’s arrest was a seemingly bizarre turn of events, as he had publicly said he was helping the investigators working to stop the attacks on EnCana Corp. infrastructure.

“I’ve had quite a grilling,” Ludwig told reporters after his release in Grande Prairie on Saturday morning. “I want to go home and connect the dots a little bit as to where we’re going from here as a family. That’s all I want to say right now.”

“I was treated very well by the way by police except that they wearied me by continuing to repeat the same thing for about five hours at the end of the 10-hour session,” Ludwig told the radio station.

“I didn’t want to talk anymore. The lawyer had said just to leave it at that. They kept going, so I just listened for five hours.”

As he got into his car outside the jail to go to breakfast with his family, he told reporters his fight as an environmentalist is not over.

“We still have battles to fight, all of us with the oil and gas abuses in the province,” said Ludwig.

Ludwig arrived home to his family commune just before 11 a.m. local time. A police escort trailed him as he passed a swarm of reporters waiting at an RCMP blockade three kilometres from the gates.

After his truck rolled to a stop, Ludwig lowered his window. He appeared annoyed at the questions from the gathered horde.

“I want you to wake up and see what’s happening in Alberta with oil and gas,” he said. “Copenhagen, you couldn’t handle it. Maybe we should handle our own problems here.”

During his interrogation, Ludwig said RCMP investigators tried to play on his sympathies by comparing his plight to that of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who was an anti-apartheid activist.

“Well I thought: ‘I’m hardly a Mandela.’ But anyway, then they suggested I cough it all up like Mandela did and be a big man about it and get some respect for the issue in the province,” he told the radio station. “I am not ready to cough anything up. I have not much to cough up except my concerns.”

Ludwig’s lawyer, Paul Moreau, said police have not told him why exactly his client was arrested or why he was released.

“The grounds that you need in order to arrest someone are exactly the same as you need to lay a charge,” he said. “So yesterday at 8 a.m. (they) had reasonable grounds to arrest him and today at 8 a.m. (they) don’t. So what changed?”

Ludwig is a longtime activist who claimed sour gas wells adversely affected human health, including that of his family members.

He was released from prison in 2001 after serving two-thirds of a 28-month sentence for five charges related to oilpatch bombing and vandalism.

Ludwig apparently went to a motel room in Grande Prairie, near his family’s farm near Hythe on Friday, expecting to talk to police about repairing the relationship between the oil industry and the community.

Instead, he was arrested at the site, and police executed a search warrant at his property in northwestern Alberta near the B.C. border.

About 100 RCMP officers swarmed the farm, armed with the five-day search warrant.

Another of Ludwig’s sons, Ben, said his father was on his way back to the family farm Saturday.

Ben Ludwig said the RCMP continued to search the family property.

“They’re all over the place,” he said. “We’re confined to one particular building that they’ve allotted to us until they get around to clearing all the other ones. You have to just sit tight and watch them crawl through the other buildings.”

Ludwig is expected to address the media at the farm later Saturday.

Starting in October 2008, there have been six bomb attacks targeting remote EnCana pipelines and wellheads.

The oil giant offered a $1-million reward for information leading to the bomber. RCMP say the reward has not been collected.

The attacks began after a first anonymous letter was sent to local newspapers warning the energy giant to cease its operations in the area south of Dawson Creek, B.C., about 600 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Edmonton Journal, with files from J.T. Lemiski, CFCW Radio

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal


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