Ottawa asked to help Cdn. scientist jailed in Nicaragua

A Canadian company facing drug charges in Nicaragua is appealing to the Canadian government for help.

Hemp Agro International was operating an industrial hemp farm in Nicaragua with the full approval of state officials. Suddenly, just before Christmas, Nicaraguan police burned the crop and charged the company's seven Canadian partners with growing marijuana.

Company spokesman Grant Sanders says he's meeting with External Affairs officials in Ottawa today to see if they can assist company research director, Dr. Paul Wylie.

Wylie, who had the misfortune of being the only company director in Nicaragua the day charges were laid, is in a Managua jail facing a possible 20 year sentence.

Sanders claims the Nicaraguans turned on the company under pressure from the U.S. drug enforcement agency. However, the media in Nicaragua are challenging the credibility of Sanders and Hemp Agro.

Part of Hemp Agro's public relations problem is its choice of a Nicaraguan partner. When it started negotiating with Nicaraguan authorities, Hemp Agro teamed up with Danilo Blandon -- an admitted cocaine dealer.

"At the time we met him his status with the government and his relations with the government were very clear -- he was very well liked," Sanders told CBC News.

Sanders says Hemp Agro was growing hemp, not marijuana. He hopes to prove that in court.