A veteran Canadian diplomat says the best chance of getting New Brunswick farmer Henk Tepper out of a Lebanon prison is to deal directly with Algeria, the country that issued the arrest warrant in the first place.
Gar Pardy, a now retired ambassador and longtime director of consular services, told the Toronto Star Thursday that if Algeria's grievances over a bad shipment of potatoes are satisfied then his detention in Lebanon is unnecessary, reported thestar.com.
"There is a deal that can be made here. I haven't heard anything . . . about whether or not this side of the equation is being handled . . . if it occurs to me it should occur to some other people. But again you come back to whether or not there is any interest on the part of the PMO to be politically active on the case," he told the Star.
The office of the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy confirmed there has been contact with Algeria with respect to Tepper but no further details were available.
Tepper was on a trade mission to Lebanon last March with Potatoes Canada, an industry organization, when he was arrested on an Interpol warrant alleging he tampered with federal documents to sell potatoes to Algeria in 2007 that were unfit for human consumption.
His more than nine months of being held in a Lebanon jail has caused a storm of controversy in Ottawa with critics calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to personally intervene.
However, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has insisted that all diplomatic efforts are being made to bring Tepper back to Canada.