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Eco-activist pleads guilty to slaughterhouse arson

April 21, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Seattle man has pleaded guilty to federal arson charges involving a fire that destroyed an Oregon horse slaughterhouse more than two decades ago.

Joseph Dibee, 54, pleaded guilty Thursday in Portland, Oregon, to federal arson and conspiracy to commit arson charges for his role in the fire that destroyed Cavel West, a slaughterhouse that processed and sold horse meat in Europe, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

Dibee also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit arson in California for his role in a 2001 fire that burned a pole barn at a Bureau of Land Management wild horse facility near Litchfield.

Prosecutors said in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dibee joined about a dozen animal rights and environmental activists in setting fires around the West.

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In 2006, a grand jury in Oregon indicted Dibee and several others in connection with the Cavel West arson. Dibee fled first to Syria and later to Russia.

He was arrested by Cuban authorities in August 2018 while traveling from South America back to Russia. The FBI flew Dibee to Portland, where he was arraigned and held in custody. Since 2021, Dibee has been in home confinement in Seattle, where he cared for his elderly father.

Dibee has long contested the government’s characterization of his actions as domestic terrorism.

Dibee will be sentenced in late July. As part of a plea agreement, the Justice Department dropped arson charges against Dibee in Washington state. He has also agreed to pay restitution, with the dollar amount to be determined at sentencing.

The U.S. Justice Department is recommending Dibee serve 87 months in prison. He is expected to ask for a lighter sentence.