Former Seattle man, an alleged domestic terrorist, arrested in Cuba after 12 years on the run

(NATIONAL) – Joseph Mahmoud Dibee, 50, formerly of Seattle, an accused domestic terrorist and 12-year fugitive, has been apprehended and returned to the United States to face federal criminal charges in Washington state as well as in California and Oregon.

The announcement was made Monday by Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, Assistant Director Michael McGarrity of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams for the District of Oregon, and Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon of the FBI in Oregon.

Dibee fled the United States in December 2005.

“Whatever the motivation, terrorism is simply unacceptable,” said Assistant Attorney Demers. “Domestic terrorism is no exception…Dibee will now face the consequences for his crimes. This should send a clear message to all other criminals on the run: no matter how long it takes, we will find you and we will bring you to justice.”

U.S. Attorney Williams said that more than two decades ago, a loosely affiliated group of “environmental extremists” set out to express their views using force, violence, sabotage, mass destruction, intimidation, and coercion. He alleged that Dibee was one of those people and that he now, as many of his co-conspirators have before, will face the consequences of his actions.

Dibee, an American citizen, is charged in the District of Oregon 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 also faces one count each of conspiracy to commit arson, possession of an unregistered firearm, and possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence in the Western District of Washington and similar charges in the Eastern District of California.

Dibee made his initial appearance in federal court last Friday before a federal magistrate judge in the District of Oregon. The government will seek his continued detention.

An indictment is only an accusation of a crime and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

How Dibee was arrested 

According to court documents in the case, federal authorities learned Dibee was traveling through Central America on his way to Russia with a planned stop in Cuba.

With the assistance of the Cuban authorities, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other US agencies the FBI arranged for Cuban authorities to detain Dibee before he boarded a plane bound for Russia, and return him to the United States.

Background on case 

In 2006, a federal grand jury in Oregon indicted Dibee and 12 co-conspirators as part of Operation BACKFIRE, a long-running FBI domestic terrorism investigation. The alleged conspirators, known as “The Family,” have been linked to more than 40 criminal acts ranging from vandalism to arson between 1995 and 2001, causing more than $45 million in damages, according to the Justice Dept. statement.

Many of the Dibee’s alleged crimes were linked to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

The FBI says now only one fugitive remains at large from Operation BACKFIRE – Josephine Sunshine Overaker, an American citizen believed to be either 43 or 46 years old and who allegedly fled to Europe in late 2001.

Overaker faces 19 felony charges including conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit arson and destruction of an energy facility, attempted arson, and arson in the District of Oregon, the Western District of Washington, and the District of Colorado.

The FBI says “Overaker speaks fluent Spanish and may seek employment as a firefighter, midwife, sheep tender, or masseuse. The FBI continues to offer a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to her arrest.”