10/31/2017 14:29 EDT | Updated 11/03/2017 14:25 EDT

Guy Ouellette accuses anti-corruption unit of 'unprecedented intimidation'

QUEBEC — The Quebec member of the legislature who was arrested by the province's anti-corruption unit accused the organization Tuesday of trying to use "unprecedented intimidation" against him.

Guy Ouellette says he was the victim of a setup by UPAC, as the unit is commonly known.

Ouellette, 65, was arrested last Wednesday in connection with a UPAC investigation into an important information leak to the media last April.

He was later released and has not been charged.

Ouellette, who specialized in fighting biker gangs when he was a member of the Quebec provincial police, stood up in the legislature Tuesday afternoon and told his fellow elected members he has done nothing wrong.   

"Preventing members of the national assembly from exercising the mandate they have been given by the population is an extremely serious attack on the democratic process," he said.

"Trying to trap them in order to prevent them from doing their work must be unequivocally denounced. What I am accused of has no basis at all. My move from the police to the political world has done nothing to alter the principles that have guided my commitment in public life over the last 48 years.

"I have always been, still am and always will be an ardent defender of social justice, of democratic values, of freedom of expression and of the truth."

His comments were preceded by Speaker Jacques Chagnon coming to Ouellette's defence in an address to the national assembly.

Chagnon said it is "intolerable" that police arrested a parliamentarian without any charges having been laid a week later.

"Today, a member of the legislature has lost an important role and his reputation has been tarnished," Chagnon said, referring to Ouellette no longer being the head of the legislature committee that oversees UPAC's activities.

"I think we must demand clarity in this situation," he added, noting that either charges should be laid or a public apology should be forthcoming.

Earlier in the day, Premier Philippe Couillard urged UPAC brass as he spoke to reporters to publicly release as many details as possible about the arrest.

A few hours after Couillard's request, UPAC held a news conference in Montreal where its director, Robert Lafreniere, described Ouellette's arrest as "a step" in the investigation.

"There will be others (steps)," he said. "There is a phenomenal quantity of analysis that needs to be done," he said, referring to evidence collected during a series of police raids.

"We will send our case to the Crown prosecutor's office and I am strongly convinced there will be charges in this case."

He specified he was not talking particularly about Ouellette.

Ouellette was linked to a UPAC probe called Machurer, which looked into suspected illegal financing within the Liberal party under former leader Jean Charest.

The April leak to a news organization revealed the unit had been looking at the comings and goings of Charest and Liberal fundraiser Marc Bibeau up until 2016.

During an interview with a Montreal radio station that was broadcast Monday, Ouellette replied, "No, absolutely not," when asked if he were the leak of the source.

Ouellette said authorities told him he was detained on suspicion of breach of trust and obstructing justice as well as conspiring to commit those two infractions.

Andre Boulanger, UPAC's operations director, told the news conference Tuesday the politician's reaction when investigators met with him justified his detention without a warrant in order to preserve evidence.

— With files from Giuseppe Valiante in Montreal