Feds ask Spain to speed up trial for Digby man

The wife of a former Nova Scotia fisherman detained in Spain says the federal government has sent a letter to that country's new prime minister asking that her husband receive a trial as soon as possible.

The wife of a former Nova Scotia fisherman detained in Spain says the federal government has sent a letter to that country's new prime minister, asking that her husband receive a trial as soon as possible.

Philip Halliday, 55, has been in a jail in Spain on drug-trafficking charges since December 2009. At one of his last court appearances, a panel of judges ruled he'd spend another two years in jail before a trial.

His wife, Sheree Halliday, said she recently learned the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs had written a letter to the Spanish prime minister on Philip Halliday's behalf.

According to Halliday, Diane Ablonczy's letter urged newly-elected Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy that "on compassionate and humanitarian grounds and due to serious health conditions, Mr. Halliday receive a timely trial."

Sheree Halliday told CBC News the latest development in her husband's case shocked her.

"I was excited. I'm still excited. It's good news, it's at least something and nothing has happened for the last couple of years," she said during a phone interview from her home in Digby.

"With a new prime minister, maybe that's all it will take is for somebody to sit up and take notice."

Halliday was one of seven crew members aboard the Destiny Empress, which was boarded and seized by officers from the Spanish National Police special operations group on Dec. 20, 2009.

Investigators said they discovered 1.5 tonnes of cocaine in the ship's hold and Scotland Yard asserted the seizure was worth about $620 million at street prices. Halliday was charged with drug trafficking in March 2010.

He has maintained he had no idea there was a large stash of hidden cocaine on the boat.

If he's found guilty, Sheree Halliday said her husband faces an 18-year prison sentence.

While in detention, Halliday has had several health problems. His gall bladder had to be removed and he has also suffered problems with his liver and kidneys.

On Thursday, Sheree Halliday said she hadn't had much good news in recent months.

"The legal bills alone have mounted to $85,000 and I'm broke. So I put our house on the market last week," she said.

Halliday said she also now knows why her husband was told he'd have to remain in jail for two more years before a trial.

"It was brought to our attention that the lawyer that we had in Spain previously had misrepresented Philip. He had told the judges that Philip would accept a plea bargain and that never was the case," Halliday said.

Sheree Halliday said her husband has since fired that lawyer and hired a new team.