PEI

Farmer jailed in Lebanon disowned by government: MP

A New Brunswick farmer in jail in Lebanon should be getting more help from the Canadian government, says Liberal MP Wayne Easter.

A New Brunswick farmer in jail in Lebanon should be getting more help from the Canadian government, said Liberal MP Wayne Easter.

Wayne Easter accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of disowning Canadians who get into trouble abroad. (CBC)

The P.E.I. MP said Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to do more to secure the release of Henk Tepper — the potato farmer who has been in a Beirut jail for nearly three months, in a dirty, crowded cell with no light.

"It's a mantra of Stephen Harper's, you get in any kind of trouble as a Canadian abroad we'll disown you practically at the political level," said Easter.

"We need to have political involvement."

Tepper was arrested in March on an Interpol warrant issued by Algeria. That country's government wants the Grand Falls farmer extradited to face charges of importing potatoes unfit for human consumption.

The imports in question had ringrot, which is not a danger if consumed. The shipment included potatoes from P.E.I., although Island farmers say the problem potatoes were from Quebec.

Henk Tepper was detained March 23 and remains in a jail in Beirut.

The parliamentary secretary to Canada's minister of foreign affairs, Deepak Obhrai, said Canada cannot intervene on behalf of Tepper, but said officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs have met with him to ensure he is being treated well.

Obhrai said Canada has no say when it comes to another country's judicial system.

"This process has to go through the local system, judicial system. Canada cannot intervene in any country's judicial system. We need to respect that, as we expect everyone else to respect our judicial system."

Easter said Tepper should be returned to Canada to face the charges.

"Let the legal system deal with whether there's right or whether there's wrong, but the Canadian government has the responsibility to ensure that this individual is brought back to Canada, and treated fairly under the law," he said.

Tepper's lawyer in Beirut expects an answer Monday about whether he can be released to her custody. She has made an application to the state prosecutor.

There are lawsuits underway in P.E.I., New Brunswick and Quebec over the potato shipment, as potato producers seek to recover lost money, as well as compensation for damaged reputations.