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Presse - Kanada

September 2001

the globeandmail.com Web Centre

'Lothar Ebke is a person of integrity'

'Lothar Ebke is a person of integrity'

Canadian friends have rallied around the man Germany says is a terrorist

YELLOWKNIFE -- It's like a scene in a storybook: a colourfully painted house with flower beds, a friendly collie and laundry on the clothesline.

Inside, there's a basket of fruit on the table and a view of a lake. The walls are covered with papier-mache art and the bookshelves are lined with spy novels.

This is the home of an alleged terrorist, Lothar Ebke, a strapping German with sandy hair, a moon face and a soft voice. On Thursday, a Northwest Territories judge is to decide whether Mr. Ebke should be extradited to Germany, where he is wanted on suspicion of membership in the now-defunct Revolutionary Cells, a leftist guerrilla organization.

Investigators, drawing on information from a former member of the group, allege that Mr. Ebke and his comrades bombed a building and tried to blast away a monument. They allege that he was involved in planning the shootings of a federal judge and a city official, both of whom survived.

At his home, which he operates as a bed and breakfast, Mr. Ebke maintained his silence about the case.

The arrest of the quiet 47-year-old carpenter and boat builder on May 18, 2000, shocked Yellowknife. His friends and acquaintances rallied around him; many submitted letters to the court.

"Lothar Ebke is a person of integrity. He does what he says he will do and has a strong sense of community. He goes out of his way to act in a way that he thinks is good for the community. He is a kind man. I have never known him to lie," wrote Jane Bishop, a doctor who now lives in British Columbia.

Louise Pargeter, who helped post his bail, recounted how he took her and some friends in his boat one day when her vessel's motor was broken, adding: "What I especially enjoy about this man is his knowledge and respect for Canada's North."

Ben Hubert, a former neighbour who moved to Calgary, said Mr. Ebke's devotion to carpentry is remarkable. Two years ago, Mr. Ebke was asked to build a display case for the NWT government mace.

"I was impressed with his determination to make Yellowknife a place that he wanted to be for a long time," he wrote.

In an affidavit to support his bail application, which was granted a month after his arrest on condition he not leave the Yellowknife area and after the deposit of $100,000, Mr. Ebke indicates a fondness for the city.

"My long-term plan is to remain in Yellowknife and continue to develop a business building and restoring wooden boats," he wrote.

According to his thick court file in Yellowknife, Mr. Ebke first visited Canada on a canoe trip in 1984. He returned in 1993, then settled in the NWT capital in 1995, and obtained landed-immigrant status in 1996. His live-in companion, Regina Pfeifer, whom he met in Germany in 1991, settled here in 1995.

Together, they operate the modest Back Bay Boat Bed and Breakfast, charging $65 a night each for three guest rooms.

But Mr. Ebke and Ms. Pfeifer married other people in Yellowknife. In the months after Mr. Ebke's arrest last year, the RCMP alleged the marriages were arranged so that Mr. Ebke and Ms. Pfeifer could obtain landed-immigrant status. The police charged the pair and their spouses with Immigration Act offences. The charges were stayed in April.

The following month, during an eight-day extradition hearing in Yellowknife, Mr. Ebke's lawyer, Wes Wilson, said his client cannot be sent to Germany because his arrest and detention were unconstitutional on the grounds that he has not been formally charged by German police.

The court heard that police officers seized materials from Mr. Ebke's home that included a German magazine with the Revolutionary Cells symbol on its cover. They also took a box of slides labelled Tarek and Barbara. Police informant Tarek Mousli had a relationship with a woman named Barbara.

Police also took a photo album with the notation: Lothar in August 1996 on his trip with Axel, but with no photo above it. Axel Haug, allegedly a fellow cell member, is on trial in Berlin.

The Revolutionary Cells, which was formed in 1973 as an offshoot of the ruthless Baader-Meinhof gang, was responsible for high-profile attacks in what was then West Germany.

The RZ, its German acronym, believed in the "legitimacy of the use of force" in its support of leftist causes, chiefly combatting the deportation of illegal migrants and aiding the battles of workers, young people and women. It targeted government structures, police departments and U.S. office buildings.

Although it was a small movement (observers believe it was never more than a few hundred people), urban guerrillas in independently operating cells conducted at least 180 strikes, using arson, firearms and explosives before disbanding in the mid-1990s. A man died in a 1981 attack, which the group said was unintentional.

German police were handed a huge break two years ago when they discovered that explosives stolen from Mr. Mousli's Berlin cellar came from an RZ depot. Police allege that Mr. Ebke was a member of the RZ between 1985 and 1993 and managed the depot.

Last December, Mr. Mousli, a Lebanese-born German who says he was a close friend of Mr. Ebke, was convicted of membership in a terrorist organization and the 1987 bombing of a Berlin office for asylum seekers.

But Mr. Mousli, who was his cell's technical expert, was given a two-year suspended sentence because he provided detailed information and agreed to testify against his alleged conspirators.

This summer, Mr. Mousli, who is under witness protection, gave evidence at the Berlin trial of several people accused of being part of the group.

In an interview with German investigators on April 7, 2000, filed in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, Mr. Mousli said he met Mr. Ebke at a karate club in the early 1980s in Berlin. Both were members of the city's left-wing circles and were involved in illegal radio broadcasts and extremist publications.

In late 1985, they were invited to join the Revolutionary Cells, Mr. Mousli alleged.

"There was no doubt about it: We would either join the group together or would both refrain from joining," Mr. Mousli said in the interview.

"He was one of my best friends. It was a normal thing to me to discuss this very important and far-reaching step with him. In the end, we agreed to take this step without reservations," Mr. Mousli said later, adding it was important to them that the RZ targeted property, not people.

The informant provided investigators with details of four attacks, saying Mr. Ebke played a direct role in two and helped plan two others.

In court, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Ebke's lawyer, said: "Mousli's evidence does not amount to anything more than suspicion."

Mr. Mousli said in his statement that in October of 1986, he and Mr. Ebke were instructed by leaders of their cell to help plan the knee-capping of Harald Hollenberg, Berlin's top immigration official, to protest against numerous deportations of foreigners.

Both were hesitant, he said, because the plan involved harming a person, but they gave in to the will of the group. Mr. Mousli said they scouted an escape route, stole a car for the getaway and eavesdropped on police-radio communications during the attack. The director was shot in both legs by a fellow cell member but survived.

In September of 1987, higher-ups decided to shoot but not kill Dr. Karl Gunter Korbmacher, a federal judge involved in refugee cases.

Again, Mr. Mousli said, the reluctant pair did reconnaissance work and found a getaway route. They removed the identification numbers from a stolen motorcycle used in the hit. The judge was shot in the leg by another member of the group while Mr. Ebke and Mr. Mousli listened to police-radio traffic.

Mr. Mousli said he left the organization in mid-1990 because he was disturbed that his cell members had targeted people but that Mr. Ebke tried to persuade him to stay. "Lothar himself wanted to stay and also attempted to change my mind. I stuck to my decision."

Jill Mahoney