DON’T WAIT TO LEARN THE HARD WAY ABOUT TRAVELLING TO ISLAMIC LANDS…
Canadians being held captive abroad 6By Bryn Weese,Parliamentary Bureau
First posted: Monday, May 9, 2011 6:19:50 EDT PM
OTTAWA – A journalist, a tourist and a potato farmer are among the Canadian citizens being held prisoner or captive in the Middle East and North Africa.
Henk Tepper, a New Brunswick potato farmer, has been locked in a Lebanese jail cell for 48 days because Algeria — a country he’s never even been too — accuses him of trying to sell that country potatoes in 2007 unfit for human consumption.
Algeria convinced Interpol to issue a Red Notice for Tepper, and he was picked up in Lebanon earlier this year when he travelled there.
“He hasn’t seen the sunlight in 45 days,” said Rodney Gillis, Tepper’s lawyer in Canada. “He’s totally frustrated because he hasn’t committed a crime. He’s never even been to Algeria. The irony is they can allege he’s committed a crime in Algeria, give something to Interpol and he gets arrested in Lebanon, and the government of Canada says, ‘You fellas work it out.'”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Canadian officials in Lebanon have been providing “consular services” to Tepper, and are in regular contact with Gillis and Tepper’s family. In an email Monday, a spokeswoman for Foreign Affairs said the government is also monitoring Tepper’s health and welfare.
“(But) the Government of Canada cannot intervene in the judicial affairs of a sovereign country, nor can it seek preferential treatment or try to exempt Canadian citizens from the due process of local law,” wrote Ann Matejicka.
But Gillis said Foreign Affairs has been next to useless, and should be pressuring Interpol to drop the Red Notice for Tepper, which Gillis said would likely lead to the Lebanese releasing him and sending him home.
Tepper isn’t the only Canadian languishing in a foreign land on bogus charges.
Dorothy Parvaz, a Canadian journalist from British Columbia who entered Syria to cover the anti-government protests there for Al Jazeera, was arrested as soon as she entered the country on April 29 and hasn’t been heard from since.
A Facebook group has been set up appealing for Parvaz’s release, and Al Jazeera has dedicated a portion of its website to her. Since Parvaz holds Canadian, US and Iranian nationalities, all three governments are pressuring the Syrian government to release her.
In her case, Matejicka said the government is “concerned” about her whereabouts.
“Officials at the Canadian Embassy in Damascus are in contact with senior level Syrian authorities to gather additional information and to provide consular assistance, as required,” she wrote.
And Colin Rutherford, a Canadian tourist from Toronto who travelled to Afghanistan on his own, was taken captive by insurgents there in October. On Sunday, the Taliban released a video of Rutherford showing him to be in good health. The group of so-called Mujahadeen fighters who have kidnapped Rutherford accuse him of being a spy.
Foreign Affairs insists they are working for Rutherford’s release.
“Canadian officials are working with Afghan authorities to assist the family in securing the safe release of their loved one. We ask that the media respect the privacy of the family,” Matejicka wrote.
For Gillis, the worst case scenario for Tepper is that he’ll be extradited to Algeria.
While his cramped cell in Lebanon is bad — there is no window, no toilet except a hole in the floor, no toilet paper and he shares his space with murderers — Gillis worries it’ll be “much worse” in Algeria.
UPDATE: SO WHAT DOES LEBANON WANT FOR THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF THIS CANADIAN?
But Tepper’s lawyer… Jim Mockler, says he stands by what he says the Lebanese justice minister told him. “I want to know who the minister is referring to when she speaks of these Lebanese authorities.”
Tepper has been held in a Beirut prison since March 23rd over allegations that potatoes he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria in 2007.
He and his lawyers have denied the allegation.