Mon, Apr 02, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Canadian man returns home after rotten potato saga

AP, OTTAWA

A Canadian farmer returned home on Saturday after being released from a Lebanese jail where he had been held for a year on allegations that he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria.

Potato farmer Henk Tepper looked drained as he was reunited with his family on Saturday afternoon at Ottawa airport.

“I’m happy to be home,” he told a throng of reporters as he left the customs area.

He said little else during a makeshift news conference outside an airport lounge, where he had spent his first hour back home with family members.

His lawyers, who accompanied Tepper home from Lebanon, asked reporters to respect his privacy and said they would have more to say to the media today.

Tepper, who is in his mid-40s and from Drummond, New Brunswick, had been in custody in Beirut since March 23 last year.

He was picked up on an international arrest warrant on allegations he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria in 2007 and forged export documents.

A source close to Tepper told the Canadian Press that the Interpol red notice issued by Algeria remains in effect, which says he could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the allegations.

Tepper had been held in a legal limbo because Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Algeria.

Algeria also alleges that Tepper forged documents related to the export of potatoes from Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

Tepper’s lawyers have denied all of the allegations, saying the potatoes were inspected in Canada before shipment and met all Algerian standards.

Tepper was arrested in Lebanon when he traveled to the Middle East on an agricultural trade mission to promote seed potatoes from Atlantic Canada.

Over the past year, Tepper’s lawyers and family have expressed concerns about his deteriorating health.

Tepper’s family and Liberal politicians had said the Canadian federal government in Ottawa was not doing enough to secure Tepper’s release. A number of public appeals and meetings were held to push for his return home.

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