Canadian ordered back to Greek prison

A former Winnipegger was ordered back to prison in Greece by a judge in an Amsterdam courtroom on Friday.

Winnipeg man has spent years trying to get transferred to Canada

A former Winnipegger was ordered back to prison in Greece by a judge in an Amsterdam courtroom on Friday.

Kevin Hiebert, 35, is supposed to be shipped back to Greece in the next 10 days, CBC News has learned.

According to his cousin, Cam Patterson, Hiebert is losing hope that he will ever get back to Canada.

"All he really said this morning was, 'I think the only way I'm gonna get out here is if the prime minister of Canada sits down with the prime minister of Greece and they all kind of decide that, you know, maybe the guy should just go home,'" Patterson said.

"He can't see how anybody else has any power to change it and he's really caught in that wheel and it's pretty hard to get out of it."

Hiebert was sentenced to life in prison after he was arrested at the Athens airport in 1999 and convicted nearly a year later for trying to smuggle several kilograms of cocaine into Greece. 

He has been trying to return to Canada under a prisoner exchange program ever since.

In November 2008, he was out of prison on a pass when he failed to return. He had served nine years of what would have been a 24-year sentence under Greek law.

Last summer, Hiebert approached a Canadian Embassy and put his future on the line. He asked whether there were any warrants for him, or any legal barriers that would prevent him from returning to Canada.

Hiebert was told that all he had to do was pay Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade an outstanding penal fee of about $4,500, Patterson said.

Hiebert's father paid the fee and the department issued Hiebert an emergency travel document and the flight details to come home.

But when he showed up at Amsterdam's airport, he was arrested under a new warrant issued by European officials on Aug.12, one day after his family met with Canadian officials.

Family, friends and some Canadian politicians believe he was set up.

Anita Neville, the Liberal MP from Winnipeg South Centre, has tried to state Hiebert's case in Parliament. She and Dan McTeague, MP for Pickering-Scarborough East in Ontario, have written letters in support of Hiebert's return to Canada.

Foreign Affairs has refused to talk to the CBC about the case.

Corrupt officials

In the years following his conviction, Hiebert and his family did all they could to get him home. That led to an encounter with a corrupt official in Greece, Hiebert's father, Dick told CBC News.

He said he was approached by an official who offered to "make the life sentence go away" if he were paid more than $60,000. The elder Hiebert didn't have that kind of money, so his son languished in a prison notorious for violent riots.

At one point, Hiebert was advised that if he waived his right to an appeal that he would be eligible for a prisoner-exchange agreement between Canada and Greece. He agreed but Greece refused to send him, and then Canadian officials repeatedly refused to accept him.

During Friday's extradition hearing, Hiebert's Dutch lawyers argued that several human rights violations occurred during his original trial, including being sentenced to life in prison by a judge without a jury, his lawyer or even a translator present.

The judge at Friday's hearing ruled that while Hiebert's rights may well have been violated, that issue should be taken up with the Greek justice system.