Potato farmer freed from Beirut jail returns to N.B.

New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper arrived in Grand Falls just before 8 p.m. AT Sunday, after spending more than a year in a Lebanese jail, arrested on a warrant on allegations he sold rotten potatoes in Algeria.

Henk Tepper was jailed March 23, 2011 in Beirut, Lebanon

Henk Tepper, in the red and black coat, hugs family and friends as he arrives home in Drummond, N.B., his first time seeing most of them in more than a year. Tepper was jailed in Lebanon on charges that he sold tainted potatoes in Algeria. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper arrived home in Grand Falls just before 8 p.m. AT Sunday, after spending more than a year in a Lebanese jail, arrested on a warrant on allegations he sold rotten potatoes in Algeria.

Tepper was reunited with his family in Ottawa on Saturday. His home town, the village of Drummond, was buzzing with news he's back in Canada all weekend.

Tepper's van rolled onto his driveway just before 8 p.m. AT, where the family was greeted by a throng of dozens of locals eager to give him a warm homecoming 374 days since his incarceration.

A number of "Welcome home" signs, noisemakers and party balloons and about 50 people welcomed Tepper home, the CBC's Catherine Harrop said.

New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper walks with his sister, Harmein Dionne, as he arrives at the airport in Ottawa on Saturday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

On their way from Ottawa to Grand Falls to Drummond, Tepper's van — carrying his wife Ella, parents and sister Harmein Dionne — passed by pockets of people waving welcome home signs as well as local businesses that put up placards.

Tepper stopped briefly in Grand Falls, where his farm and many of his supporters are located.

As soon as he got out of the van in Drummond, Tepper began hugging family and neighbours waiting for his arrival.

"He was speechless," Harrop reported. "One by one, they came up and they kissed him. They wanted to touch him. It was very emotional."  

"Henk Tepper's mother was crying and embracing people," Harrop said.  

She also spoke briefly with Tepper's father.  

"I said how are you feeling? He just said, 'Good.' He looked very tired," Harrop reported.  

Dionne, who's been speaking for her brother since his incarceration "said this was the best day of her life," Harrop said.

Excitement building

Mayor Cyril Rioux said the town was excited for Tepper's return.

"We can all say he's one of ours. But I mean … it's the talk of the town," said Grand Falls Mayor Marcel Deschênes.

"Everybody is happy for him and his family. And we just hope … he can get on with his life. But it's hard to put a year behind you when you've been detained like he was."

Tepper's family has been voicing concerns about the farmer's mental and physical health since he was detained. He will undergo a medical exam now that he is back home, CBC News has learned.

Tepper's business, Tobique Farms, has been under creditor protection since June — about $11 million is owed to various creditors.

The 1,214-hectare potato farming operation is one of the province’s largest potato producers.

A press conference is scheduled for 11 a.m. AT tomorrow in Grand Falls.