A Canadian immigration panel began hearings yesterday to make a decision whether or not a radical environmentalist’s ties to a gaggle the FBI considers a terrorist group can stop him from applying for expatriate standing in Canada.
Tre Arrow is wanted for his alleged role in the 2001 firebombing of logging and cement trucks in Oregon.
The FBI claims he is associated with the Earth Liberation Front, its top domestic terrorist priority.
The group has claimed responsibility for dozens of acts of destruction over the past few years and was tied to an arson fire at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle on May 21, 2001. That fire caused as much as $3 million in structural damage.
Obtaining refugee status would prevent authorities from extraditing Arrow to the United States.
The Immigration and Refugee Board hearings are held behind closed doors unless the applicant requests otherwise.
The gaunt and shackled Arrow, clad in red prison overalls, would not comment on the privacy of the hearing as officers hustled him down a hall filled with supporters.
“I love you,” he called to them as he passed.
“I think it’s important that people recognize the injustices that are being committed against the people and animals of this planet.”
Arrow’s lawyers have said the Canadian government is alleging that he is a terrorist.
Before the hearing on refugee status for Arrow proceeds, Canadian officials must first decide if he can be admitted to the country.
For the panel to decide that, said Negar Azmudeh, Arrow’s defense attorney in immigration court, it must find that the ELF is not a terrorist organization or that Arrow has no links to the organization.
If the panel decides he is connected with ELF, Arrow would be handed over to U.S. authorities, said Canadian activist David Barbarash.
Arrow contends that he wouldn’t get a fair trial in the United States because of the FBI’s assertion that the crimes he is accused of are acts of terrorism.
Arrow, 30, who was born Michael Scarpitti but says the trees told him to change his name, has said he is not a terrorist.
He gained notoriety by scaling the Portland offices of the U.S. Forest Service in 2000 and perching on a narrow ledge for 11 days to protest logging on Mount Hood.
He is facing federal charges in Oregon of using fire to commit a felony, destroying vehicles used in interstate commerce and using incendiary devices in a crime of violence.
The charges carry combined penalties of up to 80 years in prison.
Barbarash said Arrow has ended a hunger strike he had waged. He said Arrow has dropped from 150 pounds to 109 pounds while in custody.
Arrow’s supporters say that, as a vegan, Arrow has not been receiving food he can eat in custody. They brought food for him yesterday.
“He was looking forward to today for the food rather than the hearing,” Barbarash said.
“Every now and then he gets some iceberg lettuce.”
If the panel decides he is not associated with the ELF, Arrow has 28 days to begin the process to apply for refugee status in Canada.
Hearings would then be scheduled for the claim.
That could take up to six months, Negar Azmudeh said.
If that application is refused, Arrow can apply for a review before the Federal Court of Canada.
Canada’s Department of Justice cannot discuss the issue because of Canadian privacy laws on immigration matters.
Arrow was arrested in Victoria, B.C., in March on shoplifting charges alleging that he tried to steal bolt cutters from a home improvement store.