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July 6th, 2005 Andrew Macleod | News Stories
 

GROUNDED ARROW

Environmental activist Tre Arrow unlikely to return to Oregon anytime soon to face charges.

     
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Don't expect environmental activist Tre Arrow back in Oregon anytime soon to face arson charges.

A three-day hearing on Arrow's extradition from British Columbia to Oregon wrapped up last week, and a Canadian provincial judge is likely to make her recommendation in the matter Thursday, July 7.

Arrow was arrested 15 months ago in Victoria on charges of shoplifting bolt cutters. The FBI wants him back in Oregon to stand trial in connection with a pair of arsons four years ago that caused $260,000 in damage to logging and cement trucks. Arrow insists he's innocent.

Whatever B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kirsti Gill decides, here are the reasons Arrow will likely remain in a Canadian jail for some time.

Just 28 of the 130 extradition requests the United States, government made to Canada in 2004 have been completed. While some cases are relatively simple, says Canadian Justice Department spokesman Christian Girouard, it isn't unheard-of for the process to take 10 years or more.

Girouard does say he can't remember a case where Canada ultimately refused to turn over a person wanted by U.S. law enforcement.

But in Arrow's case, Gill also is deciding whether she can rule on a constitutional challenge made by Arrow attorney Tim Russell. If Gill does rule on that challenge, there will be more arguments in her court on whether Canada's laws and its extradition treaty with the United States violate the rights of political prisoners.

If Gill decides those questions range outside her jurisdiction-normally extradition hearings are limited to whether sufficient evidence exists for a conviction in Canada-and rules to extradite Arrow, the judge's decision can be appealed through the Canadian courts.

Then, the case could go to Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, who, Russell says, could look at things like prison conditions in Oregon, or whether Arrow faces persecution by the state, the FBI or U.S. forestry companies. Any decision by Cotler can be further appealed to the province's court of appeal.

Arrow, who first attracted notoriety in Portland five years ago for perching on a 9-inch ledge of the U.S. Forest Service Building to protest logging, told WW in March that he plans to fight the extradition as far as possible. He believes he can't get a fair trial in the United States, where, he says, the FBI and media have branded him an "eco-terrorist."

Arrow has also made a refugee claim in Canada, but that process will not continue until the entire extradition process is complete.

Arrow, born Michael Scarpitti, hasn't been able to make bail of about $245,000 U.S. and so has been in jail since his March 2004 arrest.

"The system is wearing on him," says Arrow's sister, Shawna Scarpitti.

"I'm pleasantly surprised at least the judge is taking the time to consider my brother's situation as an individual,'' she says. "It does offer me and my family members a semblance of hopefulness that we haven't felt in many, many moons."

For more info on Arrow, go to the Free Tre Arrow website at http://www3.telus.net/public/trearrow/.

 
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