Police release Ludwig

The Edmonton Journal, Canada/January 10, 2010

Grande Prairie - One day after he was arrested, Wiebo Ludwig was released Saturday without being charged, but RCMP contend they arrested "the right man" and continue to scour his farm for evidence to connect him to six B.C. pipeline bombings.

"Recently collected evidence will be submitted to Crown counsel for their consideration and discussions with British Columbia Crown counsel are continuing," said RCMP Insp. Tim Shields.

He added that new evidence collected between Friday and Saturday mor ning has also been forwarded to the Crown's office for review.

"I'm not about to say what it is we found and I'm not even saying we found it on this property," he said.

Shields would not even confirm that the 68-year-old man who was arrested in connection with the oilpatch bombings was Ludwig.

Spread over 15 months, the bombings targeted EnCana pipelines and wellheads near Dawson Creek, B.C. The sites of the bombings are less than an hour's drive from Ludwig's farm, north of Hythe.

Ludwig, who was previously convicted of similar off ences, says he was arrested Friday morning after he agreed to meet police at a motel in Grande Prairie.

Ludwig said he went to the motel expecting to talk to police about measures to repair the relationship between the oil industry and the community.

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

He later told his lawyer he expected to be charged with extortion.

"I've had quite a grilling," Ludwig told reporters outside the Grande Prairie RCMP detachment after his release.

"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."

Ludwig arrived back at his family's sprawling Trickle Creek ranch just before 11 a.m. Saturday.

Police followed him as he passed reporters at an RCMP roadblock three kilometres from his home.

After his truck rolled to a stop, Ludwig lowered his window and chastised reporters for not covering the impact of Alberta oil and gas development on residents and the environment.

"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."

Even after Ludwig returned to his home, RCMP continued to search the 300 hectares that make up Trickle Creek farm, home to 50 people, mostly members of Ludwig's family. Trucks, including many ferrying police in full camouf lage, passed through the RCMP blockade throughout the day.

Though RCMP let the family stay on the property, Ludwig's son, Ben, said the search has been very disruptive.

"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."

Police said they are working around the clock to expedite the search.

"The family and residents have been extremely co-operative with our investigators," said RCMP Supt. Lloyd Plant in a news release. "We are making every effort to ensure the people living at the property experience minimal interruption to their daily routine."

The family is allowed to come and go from the compound under escort, and must be escorted even if they want to move around within the property, Shields said.

He would not elaborate on what searchers are seeking, nor would he outline what charges they still hope to lay in relation to the bombings. However, he did confirm that a charge of extortion "may be one of the things under consideration."

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

"The grounds that you need 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?"

But Shields said the grounds for arrest are different from those necessary for a charge. He said Crown prosecutors will decide whether or not a charge will be laid.

"The Crown wants to be able to see a reasonable chance of conviction," Shields explained.

Ludwig told CFCW Radio that police questioned him for 10 hours.

"They apparently think that they might have DNA evidence on me - not for the bombings, but for touching the notes that were sent," he told the radio station.

Ludwig said that during his interrogation investigators tried to play on his sympathies by comparing him to former South African President Nelson Mandela.

"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 said.

"I am not ready to cough anything up. I have not much to cough up, except my concerns."

Ludwig is a longtime activist who has complained repeatedly that sour gas wells adversely affect human health, and his own family's health in particular.

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

The more recent attacks began in October 2008 after an anonymous letter was sent to local newspapers warning industry to cease its operations south of Dawson Creek, B.C., about 600 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

The bombings, which RCMP have called "domestic terrorism," have exposed resentment some area residents feel toward the oil and gas development taking place near their communities. Many residents say they don't have confidence the industry and government are taking enough measures to protect them from deadly sour gas.

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