A New Brunswick potato farmer who has been detained in Lebanon for more than 40 days
is being improperly held on an international criminal warrant at the request of the Algerian government, according to his lawyer Rodney Gillis.
Henk Tepper was detained under a criminal warrant issued by the International Criminal Police Organization at the request of the government of Algeria.
The organization, also known as Interpol, issued a warrant for Tepper based on what Gillis said was Algeria's allegation that Tepper tried to import potatoes into Algeria that were dangerous for human consumption.
Officers in Lebanon held Tepper when he entered the country two months ago. Gillis said Algerian authorities are hoping to extradite Tepper to that country.
Gillis said Algeria alleges that in October 2007, Tepper falsified Canadian Food Inspection Agency documents and tried to import potatoes into that country.
"Algeria has special rules for importing potatoes which require potato shipments to be free of certain contaminants which have nothing to do with their safety as food," Gillis said.
Gillis said Tepper shipped 3,800 metric tonnes of potatoes to Algeria, where an importer was to bring them ashore. Tepper provided proper documentation for 3,500 metric tonnes of the shipment, but 300 metric tonnes lacked sanitary screening documentation.
News reports of the shipment state that after the ship left for Algeria, lab results from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency showed that the potatoes were infested with ringrot.
"It appears that someone in Algeria forged the CFIA document to remedy the difference," Gillis said. "Mr. Tepper had no part in any forgery of CFIA documents. Nor were his potatoes dangerous to people."