A woman in Digby, N.S., wants the federal government to intervene and get medical help for her husband, who was jailed in Spain after a major international cocaine bust one year ago.
Sheree Halliday says her husband, Philip, has written her letters complaining of frequent pain and fever during his year in a jail near Madrid. She says he needs a gallbladder operation and has lost 47 pounds in jail.
"At this point I know that it's important to get a trial, but right now, my main concern is his health, because if he passes away in prison it doesn't matter when the trial is," Halliday told CBC News on Monday.
"There's a very real chance that may happen. If he becomes septic, he could die."
Philip 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, 54, was charged with drug trafficking in March.
In addition to the people on the boat, 15 other people were arrested on accusations that they participated in a criminal network seeking to import the drugs to London.
No trial date has been set for Halliday, and under Spanish law, it may be three more years before a trial begins. If he's found guilty, Halliday faces a seven-year prison sentence.
Halliday denies her husband had any inkling there was a large stash of hidden cocaine on the boat.
"Anyone that knows Philip knows he is innocent," she said. "You just know."
Town rallies in support
Halliday said her husband — a former scallop fisherman — missed the sea after heart bypass surgery forced him to give up fishing, and that's why he accepted a friend's offer to crew Destiny Empress, a former Department of Fisheries and Oceans vessel.
The indictment against Halliday states he made a phone call to a colleague on land as the vessel neared Spain and authorities believe that call was a signal the drugs were nearing their destination.
Sheree Halliday said people in Digby believe Philip is innocent.
"You can't walk down the street without being asked, 'How are you doing? Is there anything I can do? How is he?'" she said.
Friends are selling Christmas trees in a Digby grocery store parking lot to help raise money for Halliday's legal bills. A local bank has set up a trust fund and a Facebook group supporting him has more than 1,200 members.
Teri Faessler, the creator of the group, said she wants the federal government to intervene on Halliday's behalf.
"I'd like to see them step up and quit giving rhetoric that they can't do anything," she said.
Faessler cited the case of Brenda Martin, a Canadian who was jailed in Mexican for her part in a highly publicized money-laundering case. Martin spent two years in jail waiting for her case to wind through the courts before an outpouring of public sympathy prompted the Canadian government to arrange for her to serve her remaining prison term in Canada in 2008.
"The [federal government] contacted the Mexican president and they expedited a trial date for her. They got her released within 45 days of Mr. Harper phoning the president," said Faessler.
Halliday has received no similar support, she said.
"They've done nothing. They've done absolutely nothing."