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November 30, 2009

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Runaway US eco-terrorist jailed in China

AN American man wanted for eco-terrorism attacks in the United States has been sentenced to three years in a Chinese prison for making illegal drugs.

Justin Franchi Solondz, 30, was given the sentence on Friday, said an official surnamed Zhao at the intermediate court in Dali City, in southwestern China's Yunnan Province.

It was unclear what drugs Solondz was accused of producing. His father, Paul Solondz, told The Associated Press that his son pleaded guilty last month.

Paul Solondz said his son was arrested in China during a drug sweep in March, and authorities later found 15 kilograms of marijuana leaves buried in the courtyard of a home he rented.

He said evidence at the trial in China suggested his son used chemicals to press the leaves into a liquid, but the result was a toxic mixture.

Solondz was indicted in California and Washington state in 2006 in connection with a series of earlier arson attacks attributed to "the Family," a collection of radical environmentalists.

Attacks by the group caused more than US$80 million in damage.

Investigators heard little of Solondz after his indictment, and the FBI issued a US$50,000 reward late last year for information leading to his arrest.

Early this year he surfaced in Dali, a city popular with Western tourists, using a phony Canadian identification and an altered appearance, Mark Bartlett, the First Assistant US Attorney in Seattle, said on Saturday.

The US had no extradition treaty with China and it was not clear when or how Solondz might be returned to the US to face charges, Bartlett said.


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