Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Down the rabbit hole and into an Arab jail

Babble on.

I guarantee you that every single drug dealer in the entire world who read this story laughed his ass off.

Bert Tatham, 35, who advised the Afghan government on eradicating opium poppy crops, was arrested in April during a layover at Dubai International Airport while en route to Canada from Afghanistan.

The Vancouver resident was caught with 0.6 grams of hashish and two poppy bulbs, and pleaded not guilty during an arraignment last week. His lawyer is expected to appeal the sentence handed down Tuesday.

The prison sentence is a "cruel reward" for the dangerous work his son did in Kandahar, his father said.

Bert Tatham worked as a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and as an adviser to the Afghan government's poppy elimination program.


The poppy bulbs his son was carrying could not be used for opium production, as they had been harvested several years ago, he said.

"He was bringing those home for show-and-tell, basically," Tatham added.

As for the hashish, Tatham says his son is "mystified" as to how such a tiny amount became lodged in the seam of his pants.

"It is ubiquitous in Kandahar area and he was involved occasionally in the burning of drugs, and it was passed around socially as far as we know," he said.

Most stories I read where someone says "it wasn't my stuff!" make the needle on my Cynic-O-Meter redline in an instant. How can you have drugs on you by accident?

Except in this guy's case, where it's completely plausible. He was involved with both the United Nations and the Afghan government in confiscating and burning poppies and hashish. I'll make you a bet that if you had tested Canadian soldiers for trace amounts of marijuana in their system after their adventures last fall, they might have run into problems with the Dubai judiciary as well.

If evidence surfaces next week that Tatham was masterminding an international drug-smuggling cartel and using his official position as cover, I'll revise my position, but given the information we see in the public domain right now, I'd say this is a terrible miscarriage of justice.

Time for Canadian diplomats, Afghan officials who were employing him, and the United Nations bureaucrats who contracted him to intervene on his behalf with the government in Dubai.

Babble off.


At 5:15 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

My Cynic-o-Meter is still redlining, Big D. According to CTV and his dad, he wasn't advising the Afghan government on eradicating opium crops:

According to media reports, Tatham worked as a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, but his father rejected those suggestions, saying this wasn't true.

His father, Charles Tatham, also rejected reports that his son worked as an adviser to the Afghan government on its program to eliminate poppy crops, which are used to produce opium and then heroin.

"He was working with a team of Afghani nationals in helping the farmers find alternatives" to growing poppies," Charles Tatham said.

"He had no involvement nor was there any action in terms of crop eradication," he told CTV's Canada AM on Tuesday morning.

He was just an advisor to a particular batch of Afghan farmers looking for an alternative to opium poppy crops. And apparently he neglected to check whether the importation of his dried poppy bulbs would violate the laws of a country he was due to transit through.

Yeah, the Canadian government should be on it... but he's got no hope of Afghan or UN officials backing him. He's an ordinary citizen, probably working for an NGO, no official connections. And now he's going to pay the price for not doing his due diligence.

At 5:35 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

He's an ordinary citizen, probably working for an NGO, no official connections.

I have information that suggests that's not correct, Chris. Wait, out.

At 5:52 p.m., Blogger Chris Taylor said...

Well, let's assume for the sake of argument that 1) he does have some kind of official backing and 2) he's experienced in this kind of work.

What are the chances that he'd forget to check the controlled substances laws for the various countries he's scheduled to transit through?

If it's legit then there's going to be paperwork for this importation of controlled substances, right? Surely he can produce that?

At 6:05 p.m., Blogger jaycurrie said...

I fear there is a rat here somewhere. why would the folks in Dubai be checking that carefully in the first place.

One phone call from a disgruntled poppy farmer/opium lord/Taliban fun boy and this guy gets hauled out line as an international narco.

On the other hand, 6/10s of a gram of hash is not all that tiny. It is not at all clear how it would lodge in the seam of your pants.

Perhaps most to the point; he's one of our guys and was in transit through Dubai. I'd like to see out diplomatic folks lean into this and extract him to Canada. If we really, really have to we could charge him with possession. If we did that in Vancouver he'd walk and likely not even have a record.

At 8:42 p.m., Blogger Chuck said...

I'll ring in. I'm his brother. He was there working on a contract through the US state dept. He was leading a team of Afghan nationals to help farmers find other crops to grow in place of Poppy. Not eradication.

He was carrying 2 year old, dried and previously lanced poppy flowers as artifacts from his work there. 0 narcotic value. In hindsight a bad idea of course.

He was on occasion called by the Afghan police to witness the burning of confiscated drugs. These burns were very noxious as one can imagine. Hash is everywhere there and passed about freely and often shows up in food even. He is baffled as to how the small chunk got on him but not hard to imagine as a mistake. He laundered his clothes very carefully prior to leaving.

At 8:45 p.m., Blogger Chuck said...

I would also add that he regularly briefed and advised Canadian forces brass on the "bad guy" activity in the region.

so yes, he is one of our boys.

At 11:06 p.m., Blogger jaycurrie said...

Sounds right Chuck.

He's one of ours which means our man in Dubai needs to get in there and do what it takes to send him home.

At 8:48 a.m., Blogger paul roberts said...

At a time when we are having an intellectual awakenings of sorts where we are realizing that it is unacceptable for Western societies to live as a global upperclass, Bert was on the front lines attempting to truly help the Afgani people. Knowing Bert as I do, I believe whole heartedly that he was there for the best of reasons, doing something that he was passionate about and even more importantly, something that he believed would be a positive move forward for some of the poorest, least educated and most tyrannized people on our planet.

Should we support any effort to ensure that Herb is brough home as soon as possible? Absolutely, because he exeplifies what humans can achieve when they have the freedom to choose and meet their potential. He chose to work in a war zone and educate people about the potential for choice. In the realm of what we could all be doing to make the world a better place, look to Bert and then stand behind him, because none of us could do more than he has done to make a difference.

At 5:33 p.m., Blogger Carter said...

Just to revitalize this post a little bit, we've launched a website: freebert.ca to provide a way for people to help Bert. Thanks--


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