First of all, a Canadian man named Henk Tepper was accused by Algerian officials of selling rotten potatoes. Rather than take it up with him in a civil court, they issued a “Red Notice” through Interpol – treatment usually reserved for hardened criminals on the run, not gentle farmers from New Brunswick.
Then the Canadian government failed to catch whiff of the alert, so when Tepper traveled to Beirut last March to attend an agricultural trade mission to market seed potatoes from Canada, he was promptly nabbed by local authorities and shared a 10×10 m cell with 40 other prisoners for more than one year.
No help from Canada
Joe Karam, Tepper’s lawyer in Lebanon, claims that the Canadian government did very little to secure the farmer’s release in the early days of his detention.
“The first months, there was a vacuum, there was something not happening from the side of the executive branch of Canada,” he told Canada’s National Post.
Huffington Post reports that Karam was repeatedly denied access to documentation between the Canadian federal government and Lebanese officials, but then those same documents were released to Canadian press.
A weak case?
During his imprisonment in the basement of the Beirut Justice building, a letter from Tepper shows that Canada’s ambassador to Lebanon, Hilary Childs-Adams, sent the man some food and showed some “personal interest” in his case.
But Tepper’s family disagrees. They feel that too little was done to help him. One Canadian official told Karam, the lawyer, that there were 3,000 cases similar to Tepper’s and they were reluctant to interfere with Lebanon’s judicial system.
Christian Leuprecht is a political science professor at the Royal Military College of Canada and Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. She told Huff Po that Algeria’s failure to either extradite Tepper or bring a civil case against him in his own country demonstrates that they probably had a very weak case.
Repeated requests have been made to the Algerian embassy in Canada to drop the charges, as has now been done in Lebanon, but nothing has materialized. Which means that technically, Tepper is still wanted by Interpol. For allegedly selling rotten potatoes?