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Canadian held in Gadhafi smuggling plot released from Mexican jail

Al-Saadi Gadhafi, third son of the Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi, answers questions at a press conference in Sydney, Australia, on Feb. 7, 2005. AFP/GETTY IMAGES/Olivier Chouchana

A Canadian woman held for 18 months in Mexico for allegedly plotting to smuggle the son of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi into the country has been released from prison, her father said Friday.

However, an emotional John MacDonald said he won’t fully believe that his daughter, Cynthia (Cyndy) Vanier, is free until she’s back in Canada.

“We don’t want to say or do anything until we see the whites of her eyes and she’s home,” MacDonald said from Brampton, Ont.

“I just want to have a hold of her, that’s all.”

Vanier was in an immigration processing centre, MacDonald said, adding he was hoping to see her home “in the next day or two.”

MacDonald said Vanier, 52, managed a brief early-morning call from outside the gates of the prison in Chetumal in southern Mexico to say she had been released and was being taken to an immigration centre.

He said he and his wife Betty had not been “completely in the dark” about the pending development and had been expecting the release for the past several days.

“Why they do it in the middle of the night, I have no idea,” he said.

At the same time, he said, they were reluctant to talk about it until Vanier was in fact freed.

Vanier, who is originally from Mount Forest, Ont., was arrested in southern Mexico in November 2011.

Prosecutors alleged she and at least three others conspired to rent an airplane to sneak Al-Saadi Gadhafi and members of his family into Mexico. They alleged the attempt failed because the pilots refused to land secretly.

Vanier maintained her innocence throughout, saying her only connection to Libya was through Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, which had projects in the Middle Eastern country.

“It’s been 18 too long months that’s all,” MacDonald said.

“Why it took so long, the whole process, is just something we don’t understand.”

The release apparently followed a decision from a tribunal of the Supreme Court of Mexico that upheld her appeal against her arrest and detention.

Her family maintained Canada wasn’t informed of her incarceration until she was behind bars for four days and said she was held without charge for longer than Mexico’s laws allowed.

Her mother has also said the incarceration took a toll on Vanier — she had been ill with fevers, stomach problems and, at one point, required surgery.