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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Canadian man detained in Spain 'extremely thin and weak,'


12:43 | ,


Philip Halliday, the Nova Scotia man who has been detained in Spain for more than two years on drug-trafficking charges without a trial date, is extremely weak and thin but in good spirits, his family said Monday, hours after returning home from their first visit to him in jail. "It was pretty emotional. It's hard to describe. Definitely a lot of hugs, some tears," Halliday's son, Daren, told Postmedia News. Philip Halliday, 55, was arrested in December 2009 about 300 kilometres off the coast of Spain aboard a converted Canadian Coast Guard research vessel, the Destiny Empress. Inside a hidden compartment, authorities found more than 1,000 kilograms of cocaine with an estimated street value of $600 million. Halliday, an ex-fisherman who spent more than 30 years dragging scallops off the sea floor, insists he had no idea the drugs were onboard and believed he was simply delivering the vessel to a new owner. Daren Halliday said he, his older brother Cody, and their mother Sheree, were able to spend several hours with Philip in a private room over a span of two days. Recalling the first moments they laid eyes on their father, Daren said, "I don't know if there was a lot said. We hugged him pretty quick. Told him it was good to see him, that we missed him and how much we love him." One thing that was readily apparent to everyone was how much weight Philip, dressed in a buttoned-up shirt and blue jeans, had lost. Since landing in jail, he has had to have his gall bladder removed. He has also had problems with his liver and kidneys. "I thought I'd prepared myself for what Philip would look like, but I must admit I was shocked," Sheree later recalled in a Facebook posting. "He is extremely thin and weak. He walks like an elderly man and is quite emotional." "But," Sheree added, "he still has that beautiful smile that I've missed! And he hasn't lost his sense of humour." Philip was able to buy some pop, juice, chips and some sweets for the occasion, turning it into something of a family picnic, Sheree recalled. Daren said family members peppered Philip with questions about what life was like in jail. Philip, in turn, asked about life back home in Digby, N.S. The family brought Philip some novels, Sudoku game books and some clothes, including a T-shirt that said "Canada" that one of Philip's fellow inmates had requested. Philip gave the family a duffle bag full of letters that people had written to him to bring home. On the third day of their visit, the family was only able to communicate with Philip through a glass partition. "We couldn't physically touch him," Daren said. "He was on a phone. We talked through a mic. Like the movies, we put our hands on the glass. "There was a hallway he had to walk down. And one we walked down. We waved goodbye. And that was it. That was pretty hard." Family and friends back home have been pleading with Canadian officials to help get Halliday released — or at least to get a trial date set. "We're hoping to get him a quick and fair trial, to speed things up," Daren said. "It's very frustrating that nothing's changed." The amount of time someone spends in pre-trial detention varies widely across the European Union. Some countries, including Spain, can hold someone for up to four years, while other countries don't have a limit. Canadian foreign affairs officials have said that while this country cannot interfere with the judicial proceedings of another country, they have been pressing Spanish authorities for a timely and transparent trial. So far, the Halliday family has incurred $90,000 in legal fees and has had to sell their home in Digby. Family friend Peter Dickie said Monday that a Halliday Family Support Society has been formed with the goal of raising $250,000 to help cover expenses.


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