Two Liberal senators and the wife and sister of Henk Tepper were on Parliament Hill on Tuesday morning, appealing to the federal government to bring the New Brunswick potato farmer jailed in Lebanon back to Canada.
Senators Pierrette Ringuette and Mac Harb recently visited Tepper in jail with his lawyer, and they are pressing for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to issue a written request to Lebanese authorities to free him.
“Why is Stephen Harper not acting for Henk? Is he a second-class citizen because he was not born in Canada?” Ringuette said. “Stephen Harper is responsible for Henk Tepper.”
Tepper, 44, has been behind bars in Beirut with no charges against him for nine months.
The wife and sister of Henk Tepper, a Canadian being held in a Lebanese jail, were on Parliament Hill Tuesday asking for the federal government’s help to release him. (Facebook photo) The federal government denies that a letter with a written request to release him is all it would take to free him, a claim made by Tepper’s lawyer based on information from Lebanese authorities.
The New Brunswick farmer is accused of forging paperwork over a shipment of potatoes to Algeria in 2007, and was arrested on an Interpol alert issued by Algeria. He has been in jail since March.
Harb said that the crime Tepper is accused of committing would have happened on Canadian soil, not Algerian or Lebanese, and he should be brought home to face the Canadian justice system.
Tepper’s lawyer says Lebanese authorities told him it’s up to Canada to initiate the release request.
But Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dianne Ablonczy told the House of Commons last week that government officials and ministers have been in touch with “senior Lebanese officials,” and Lebanon hasn’t communicated this information to the Canadian government.
Vertaling en samen gevat:
De senatoren vragen zich af, als je niet in Canada bent geboren of je dan geen echte Canadese staatsburger bent, althans zo stelt de Canadese regering zich op. Algerije beweert dat Henk geknoeid zou hebben met de documenten voor het verschepen van eetaardappelen. Pierrette maakt duidelijk dat dat niet kan, want allen weten( ook RCMP en de Canadese regering) dat Henk in Canada was en niet in Algerije. De foodinspectie van Canada heeft de aardappelen goed gekeurd en de documenten verzonden naar Algerije. ( Heb navraag gedaan in Nederland bij de Nederlandse aardappelorganisatie www.nao.nl) en die zeggen ook dat het niet mogelijk is, om zieke aardappelen te exporteren) De RCMP ( politie Canada) was al lange tijd op de hoogte van de Algerijnse Red Alert en ze lieten Henk gewoon in naar Libanon gaan, zelfs op kosten van de Canadese regering, delegatie van pootaardappelboeren. Waarom laat Libanon Henk niet vrij, omdat men wil dat Canada vraagt om hem vrij te laten en daar is het antwoord van Canada, “Libanon heeft ons niets gevraagd” Canada laat het tot nu toe afweten en deze arme jongen met een vrouw en twee kinderen die de kerst alleen moeten doorkomen. Harper waar wacht je nu nog op, zorg dat je ook iets doet voor deze staatsburger en wel voor de feestdagen. Nu is het mooi geweest, een aardappelboer die al meer dan 9 maanden gevangen zit, omdat de politiek het laat afweten.
For Immediate Release: December 15, 2011
On the eve of the Christmas Holidays, bureaucratic indifference, political foot-dragging condemn Canadian farmer to wither away on foreign shores
Beirut – Hendrik Tepper’s hopes of coming home to his distraught family for Christmas — or anytime soon — are quickly dying.
The New Brunswick potato farmer did everything by the book in his efforts to broker quality potatoes from his and other Eastern Canadian farms to international buyers and to keep a few more jobs in the region.
Instead of the support and recognition one would expect from the Canadian Government, Mr. Tepper is being swept under the rug and forgotten in the Middle East.
Bureaucratic foot dragging and political apathy have so far thwarted efforts to bring Mr. Tepper home to his family.
In an eleventh-hour bid to repatriate the farmer, a Canadian delegation of two Senators has accompanied Mr. Tepper’s legal counsel to Beirut to make a personal appeal to the Lebanese government.
“Lebanon is being made an unwitting party to an abuse of process”, says Pierrette Ringuette, the New Brunswick Senator involved in the file. “This senseless situation could have been resolved weeks — even months — ago. All the Lebanese have been waiting for is a clear request from Ottawa to send our farmer home. But instead of an official one-sentence request that would bring Mr. Tepper home to defend his interests, we get a deafening silence that is effectively imposing a life sentence on Henk to see him rot away in a foreign detention centre.”
“This is a national disgrace.”
For Additional Information:
Office of Senator Pierrette Ringuette (613) 943-2248
A Canadian potato farmer jailed in Beirut for nine months remains in diplomatic limbo, with the federal government denying his lawyer’s claims that a simple written request would bring him home.
Lawyers for New Brunswick farmer Henk Tepper say Lebanon’s foreign minister has told them a letter from Canada is all that is needed to secure Tepper’s release.
But Canada says Lebanon has not asked for a letter.
Henk Tepper, 44, has been behind bars without charges since March. He’s accused of forging paperwork over a shipment of potatoes to Algeria in 2007 and was arrested on an Interpol alert issued by Algeria.
Tepper’s lawyer says Lebanese authorities told him it’s up to Canada to initiate the release request.
Henk Tepper has been held in a Beirut jail since March. Submitted photo
But Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dianne Ablonczy told the House of Commons Wednesday that government officials and ministers have been in touch with “senior Lebanese officials” and Lebanon hasn’t communicated this information to the Canadian government.
“The Lebanese government specifically dismisses the allegation that a simple letter would release Mr. Tepper and affirms that it must act in accordance with Lebanon’s international obligations when faced with a request for extradition,” Ablonczy said in question period, while expressing concern for Tepper and his family.
Tepper’s lawyer, James Mockler, met with the Lebanese justice minister Tuesday and said he was told the case is no longer stuck in legal proceedings and Ottawa could intercede.
Mockler told CBC News he will do anything necessary to assist the federal government in drafting a letter to Lebanon.
New Brunswick Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc accused the government of dragging its feet.
“The government of Canada is either willfully blind to Mr. Tepper’s horrible circumstances or grossly negligent or perhaps both” he said. They need to send a letter today, indicating they want him home.”
Adding to Tepper’s problems is that his business in Canada is $11 million in debt. It’s under protection from its creditors in a ruling that expires this week.
“This person is a Canadian, he’s a New Brunswicker, the people of New Brunswick want him back. His family want him back,” said NDP New Brunswick MP Yvon Godin. “It hurt his business and everything. This is totally unfair.”
Mockler says after nine months in jail, Tepper is showing signs of emotional strain.
“He’s beyond desperate. He needs to go home now. He needs assistance, as well. I believe that he needs psychological assistance,” Mockler said.
Liberal Senators Pierrette Ringuette and Mac Harb have visited Tepper in jail with his lawyer and have called on the government to do more to bring him home to Canada.
TELEGRAPH JOURNAL on 15 dec 2011
Letter not enough: minister ( Telegraph Journal)
Published Thursday December 15th, 2011
Politics: Ottawa says Lebanon will abide by international extradition law in Tepper detainment case
Canada’s minister of state for Foreign Affairs says a simple letter to Lebanon will not return New Brunswick potato farmer Henk Tepper home to Canada.
Diane Ablonczy made the statement Wednesday, a day after Tepper’s lawyer met with Lebanese Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi in Beirut and said an official request from Canada had not been made, but was all that is needed.
“The Lebanese government specifically dismisses the allegation that a simple letter would release Mr. Tepper and affirms that it must act in accordance with Lebanon’s international legal obligations when faced with a request for extradition,” Ablonczy said, responding to questions from Conservative MP Mike Allen and New Democrat MP Yvon Godin in the House of Commons.
The minister went a step further on Wednesday to say that the government had already written to Lebanon.
“Government officials and I have been in contact with senior Lebanese authorities and I have personally written to the Lebanese government on Mr. Tepper’s behalf,” she said. “We have been actively providing consular assistance and support.
“We will continue to work on behalf of all Canadians who find themselves in distress abroad.”
Reached by phone from Beirut, Henk Tepper’s lawyer Jim Mockler said that Ottawa had not given him an indication as to whether it will act in asking the justice minister of Lebanon to send the beleaguered potato farm home to Canada.
“I stress that a letter asking for the repatriation of Henk would be very helpful and we have now also provided templates used by other nations in the past to do so,” Mockler said. “At this time we have not received a response from the Government of Canada that would suggest to us that they are acting on the information that we have given them.
“I’m willing to offer any assistance that I can either to the embassy here or the department in Ottawa to help draft any letter that is necessary or offer any advice in any way that I can in initiating an effort to seek the repatriation of Mr. Tepper.”
John Babcock, a spokesman for Ablonczy, said Lebanon has never indicated that a request from Canada would provide the weight to return Tepper home.
“The Lebanese government has never communicated this information to the Government of Canada,” Babcock said. “Information we have received suggests that public profile and political grandstanding would not be in Mr. Tepper’s best interest at this point.”
Tepper was imprisoned March 23 as he arrived in Lebanon on a trade mission.
He has been held on allegations that some potatoes he exported to Algeria in 2007 were rotten.
An Interpol “red notice” that remains in place stating that the Algerian government called for his detention for the alleged use of a forged document to clear rotten food for sale for human consumption.
“I understand that often these things take time,” Mockler said. “But the window of opportunity here exists only for the time being.
“Eventually, the Lebanese minister of justice has a political decision to make and that is ‘what do I do with Mr. Tepper?’ I have a request for extradition from the Government of Algeria and I have nothing from the Government of Canada.’?”
New Brunswick Liberal Agriculture critic and Caraquet MLA Hédard Albert used part of question period in the legislature in Fredericton on Wednesday to call for Premier David Alward to assist in urging the federal government to act.
“I do not know how (much) higher you can go than directly to the prime minister of Canada,” Alward said. “I have done that on two occasions.” Alward said he has also contacted Tobique-Mactaquac MP Mike Allen after hearing of the new developments in the Tepper case.
“I have had communications with Mr. Allen as recently as within the last 24 hours,” Alward said on Wednesday. “The reality is that this is a very complex issue.
“I can assure the people of New Brunswick, Mr. Tepper’s family, and the community that the federal government is doing the work that it has to do.”
The lawyer for a New Brunswick potato farmer who has been jailed in Lebanon for the past nine months says that a letter from Ottawa is all that’s needed to free his client.
Henk Tepper, 44, has been held in a Beirut prison since March. He was arrested in the Middle Eastern country under an international arrest warrant over allegations that he exported rotten potatoes to Algeria in 2007.
His lawyer, Jim Mockler, said he spoke to Lebanese Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi in Beirut on Tuesday and was told that Tepper’s case is now in the hands of the Lebanese government rather than the country’s court system.
Qortbawi “is in a position of making a political decision with respect to what to do with Mr. Tepper,” Mockler told CBC News by phone.
“There is an opportunity for the Government of Canada to act now to bring Henk home,” he said.
Tepper has not been charged with a crime, and maintains that he’s innocent. His lawyers argue that the potatoes were inspected in Canada and met Algerian standards.
The Canadian government has resisted getting involved in the case, saying that it doesn’t interfere in the judicial proceedings of other countries.
Mockler said he met with Qortbawi Tuesday afternoon, along with New Brunswick Senator Pierrette Ringuette and Ontario Senator Mac Harb.
Any decision to release the potato farmer would require the approval of the Lebanese president and prime minister, Mockler said.
Embassy officials informed
After the meeting, Mockler said he met with the Canadian ambassador to Lebanon and told her that Qortbawi needed a letter from the Canadian government in order to have Tepper returned to Canada.
“If a crime has been committed here, it would have been committed on Canadian soil and as a result a charge should be laid in Canada,” Mockler said.
John Babcock, a spokesperson for Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy, said officials weren’t yet clear on the type of letter the Lebanese government would require to release Tepper.
However, Canadian officials “continue to engage senior Lebanese authorities to register our interest in this case,” Babcock said.
Mockler and other Tepper supporters have been pressing the federal government for months to intervene in the case.
Tepper’s sister, Harmien Tepper-Dionne, visited him last month in Beirut and said that he’s lost weight and seemed mentally shaken.
Meanwhile, Tepper’s potato farming operation in New Brunswick remains under creditor protection. His other lawyers have said the family has until Friday to propose a plan to deal with $11 million in debt.
With files from the CBC’s Laurie Graham and The Canadian Press
Quiet isn’t working with Lebanon, Editorial, Dec. 5
The safety and security of Canadians is important to our government. At home and abroad. Our government takes all consular cases seriously and treats them with the highest regard.
Canadian officials have been actively providing consular assistance and support to Hendrik Tepper and his family since his arrest.
Senator Pierrette Ringuette’s suggestion that a five-minute phone call would resolve the situation is wrong. This comment is unhelpful and does not reflect the information she received when she was briefed by Foreign Affairs officials.
Canada is a sovereign nation; other countries cannot intervene in our judicial affairs. Canadians understand this. Similarly, Canada cannot intervene in the judicial affairs of a sovereign country, nor can it seek to exempt Canadian citizens from the due process of local law.
This is why we continue to engage with senior Lebanese authorities to register our interest in the timely handling of his file.
We will continue to make sure all Canadians receive our support while abroad.
Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs), Ottawa
From: Google Alerts [mailto:email@example.com]
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To: Rosenburgh, Timothy
Subject: Google Alert – pierrette ringuette
News 1 new result for pierrette ringuette
Canada cannot intervene<http://www.google.com/url?sa=X&q=http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters/article/1100025–canada-cannot-intervene&ct=ga&cad=CAcQARgAIAAoATAAOABA29qL9wRIAVgBYgVlbi1DQQ&cd=hLvmfYG2_NQ&usg=AFQjCNHNvXuY34u5yvssNpKALcaUGxMr-A>
Senator Pierrette Ringuette’s suggestion that a five-minute phone call would resolve the situation is wrong. This comment is unhelpful and does not reflect …
Why not ? Please Mr Harper, help my cousin. Henk Tepper from the Netherlands
Canada has strong ties with Lebanon. More than 250,000 Canadians have roots there, one of that country’s biggest diaspora groups. One would think that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be able to get the Lebanese authorities’ ear when need be.
So why is a New Brunswick potato farmer languishing in a Beirut prison? Hendrik Tepper has been held for eight months without charge. He was arrested on March 23 during a Canada-sponsored business trip, on an Interpol warrant issued at the request of Algerian police, of all people, who want him extradited there. They claim he shipped substandard potatoes to Algeria in 2007 and tampered with paperwork to pass them off as higher grade, charges he denies.
To complicate matters, the Mounties are involved. They sent the Algerian police “standard” information from “open” sources on Tepper’s finances. His supporters think the Mounties tagged him as uncooperative. They asked to interview him about the Algerian claims and he insisted his lawyer be present. They didn’t follow up.
Whatever the truth, it’s a scandal that Tepper has been held this long. Yet when New Brunswick Liberal MP Dominic LeBlanc raised the issue in Parliament on Wednesday, wondering about “eight months in a Beirut jail for dubious allegations about potatoes,” junior foreign affairs minister Diane Ablonczy bristled. She said Ottawa is working to help “through quiet, diplomatic channels,” with stress on the quiet. Given the meagre results, it’s time to rethink that approach.
Lebanon has no business holding Tepper this long. Nor is it obliged to extradite anyone to Algeria. If the aggrieved Algerian importer has a credible claim, he can pursue it through our legal system.
“The Prime Minister should take five minutes of his time, call the Lebanese prime minister and ask that Tepper be sent back,” New Brunswick Senator Pierrette Ringuette told the Star this week. “What’s going on is crazy.” She’s right. Harper should crank up the volume.
An Algerian importer convicted of the crime for which a New Brunswick potato farmer is accused threw the blame on the farmer as he was being sentenced, CBC News has learned.
The importer is serving four years in an Algerian prison for forging inspection papers for a shipment of potatoes, and said at his sentencing hearing it was Henk Tepper – the farmer who shipped the potatoes – who committed the fraud, documents obtained by CBC News show.
Tepper has been in a Lebanese prison since April after being arrested on an Algerian warrant over allegations he faked Canadian Food Inspection Agency documents.
Tepper hasn’t been charged and says he’s innocent.
His lawyers say Tepper wasn’t in Algeria when his potatoes arrived. They believe the importer’s allegation and financial information the RCMP turned over to Algerian officials helped lead to the arrest.
MPs urge more assistance
In question period Wednesday, NDP and Liberal MPs said the government isn’t doing enough to help Tepper.
“Eight months in a Beirut jail for dubious allegations about potatoes sent to Algeria four years ago. This makes no sense at all,” Liberal MP Dominic Leblanc said.
“The minister should understand that a consular visit for 10 minutes once a month by a junior officer at our embassy is not going to solve the problem. So when will she take her responsibility, bring this Canadian citizen home to New Brunswick for Christmas?”
Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state with responsibility for consular matters, said the government is concerned about the case and knows how difficult the situation is for Tepper and his family. She said consular officials are providing support to them.
“We are engaging on Mr. Tepper’s behalf through quiet diplomatic channels because we strongly believe that this is the best possible approach and we will continue to work in Mr. Tepper’s best interests,” Ablonczy said.
Asked by NDP MPs about the RCMP’s role in sending Tepper’s financial information to Algerian authorities, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews only confirmed that the Mounties had assisted Interpol.
“I’m advised that the RCMP has assisted Interpol with a criminal investigation. I’m also advised that the RCMP co-operation was done in accordance with Canadian law. It would be inappropriate to comment any further as this matter is ongoing,” Toews said.
NDP consular affairs critic Jinny Sims says that’s not working.
“If being quiet was going to get this Canadian citizen out of Lebanon, it would have happened by now,” she said. “But the fact is he is still in custody.”
Documents obtained by CBC News show the RCMP economics division compiled financial details about Tepper’s farming business, as well as personal information about his wife, their house and their assets. The information was provided to Interpol Algiers, run by Algeria’s civil police force.
With files from the CBC’s Laurie Graham