A Canadian farmer who spent more than a year in a Lebanese jail has been reunited with his family, but his legal problems are far from over.
New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper arrived at the Ottawa airport Saturday after being held in custody in Beirut since March 23 of last year.
But a source close to Mr. Tepper says an Interpol red notice issued by Algeria remains in effect and the notice says he could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the allegations.
His lawyers, Jim Mockler and Joe Karam, will be in Grand Falls, N.B., Monday to answer questions regarding the Canadian government's approach in returning Henk Tepper to Canada, said Mr. Mockler.
“We'll answer as many questions as we possibly can about the approach or lack of an approach of the Government of Canada in this matter,” Mr. Mockler said in a brief interview Sunday.
Mr. Mockler said Mr. Tepper will not be attending the news conference.
Mr. Tepper was picked up on an international arrest warrant on allegations he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria in 2007 and forged export documents.
He has been in a legal limbo because he was being held on the Interpol notice by the Lebanese government, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with Algeria.
Mr. Tepper's farming operation has been under creditor protection since last June as his family and lawyers worked on a plan to deal with $11-million in debt.
Earlier this month, New Brunswick Court of Queen's Bench Judge Lucie LaVigne approved a restructuring plan that merges Mr. Tepper's eight companies into one.
Lawyer Bob Creamer said the company will work closely with the creditors and will sell off some assets, including land, for a leaner operation.
“It will be a smaller operation but the way it's structured it should thrive in the industry,” Mr. Creamer said Saturday. “It allows Henk to come home and participate in a going concern.”
Mr. Tepper's family and Liberal politicians have accused the federal government of not doing enough to bring him home.
In December, senators Pierrette Ringuette and Mac Harb travelled to Lebanon and returned saying a letter from the Canadian government would get Mr. Tepper released.
In a statement, John Babcock, spokesman for Diane Ablonczy, Canada's minister of state for foreign affairs, said Mr. Ringuette's actions “actually inhibited the process of Mr. Tepper's case.”
“This led to our office requesting a meeting with the senator's caucus colleagues to stress the need for less public profile,” said Babcock in the statement on Saturday.
“Quiet diplomacy prevailed and Mr. Tepper is free.”
Mr. Ringuette could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mr. Tepper was arrested in Lebanon when he travelled to the Middle East on an agricultural trade mission to promote seed potatoes from Atlantic Canada.Report Typo/Error
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