TORONTO (Reuters) - A Canadian man convicted of sabotage a decade ago was released without charges on Saturday after his arrest in connection with a recent string of bombings at gas pipelines in British Columbia.
Wiebo Ludwig, an energy industry critic from Hythe, Alberta, was arrested on Friday on a charge of attempted extortion in connection with six attacks on EnCana Corp pipelines and natural gas equipment near Dawson Creek, British Columbia.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police said a 68-year-old man was released but their search for evidence at a sprawling farm in Hythe, a rural community located about 16 miles from the British Columbia border, was still under way.
The RCMP statement did not specifically identify the released man as Ludwig, but his lawyer, Paul Moreau, told the Globe and Mail newspaper that his client had left police custody in Grand Prairie, Alberta, on Saturday morning.
Moreau could not be reached immediately for comment.
“Currently no charges have been laid against the man,” the RCMP statement said. It added that discussions continue with prosecutors “to determine what charges, if any, could apply.”
The British Columbia attacks, which have caused damage but no injuries, are believed to be linked to two anonymous handwritten letters sent to the media that warned EnCana to pull its natural gas operations out of the Dawson Creek area.
The letters, one before the first attack in October 2008, and the other in July shortly after the last attack, complained about the dangers of drilling for sour gas in the area.
Police said the investigation was “far from over” and a C$1 million ($970,000) reward posted by EnCana for information about who was responsible for the attacks has not been claimed.
Ludwig, a former Christian Reformed minister, served 18 months in prison for sabotage against gas facilities near his Alberta property that were operated by EnCana predecessor Alberta Energy Co, and other companies, in the 1990s.
Ludwig contended he was a victim of “big oil” and government, which he said tried to cover up his claims that emissions from the flaring of sour gas had caused sickness and miscarriages among family members.
Ludwig wrote an open letter to the bomber in September saying the attacks had prompted public discussion about the dangers of gas production, but urging an end to the attacks.
Reporting by Frank McGurty, Allan Dowd in Vancouver and Scott Haggett and Jeffrey Jones in Calgary, editing by Anthony Boadle