Israeli Organizer of Conference Detained in Morocco for 9 Days

A prominent Israeli physician who was prevented from leaving Morocco for more than a week has returned home.

Daniel Weinstein, the head of obstetrics at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, was a key organizer of the First World Congress on Maternal Mortality, held March 8 to 14 in Marrakech.

The conference drew about 1,000 doctors, midwives, nurses and students from 78 countries. More than 100 people came from Israel.

Moroccan police confiscated Weinstein’s passport after the conference, apparently because he was held responsible for a large bill.

Weinstein readily acknowledged that conference organizers owed some $40,000 to $50,000 to the conference hall and the adjoining hotel, but he maintained that the funds were held by a local conference planner.

“I’m not the one who signed the contracts, I’m not the one holding the money and I’m not the one responsible for making the payments,” Weinstein said in an interview while he was awaiting the return of his passport and permission to leave the country to return to Israel.

Politics may have been part of the reason the front desk staff of his hotel obtained his passport under a ruse, then turned it over to the police three hours before he was due to fly out of the country March 16, Weinstein said.

Although delegates came to the conference from 78 countries, only 77 flags were hoisted outside the conference hall, he said. The Israeli flag was noticeably absent.

Weinstein was perturbed that none of the Moroccans involved in preliminary planning of the conference attended the event.

“Not one representative from any medical organization in Morocco was present,” he said, again asserting that politics was the reason.

He expressed concern about the Moroccan absence because the problem of maternal mortality claims about 1 million women each year and is most acute in Africa.

Weinstein obtained a lawyer from within the small local Jewish community. He pleaded his case in a Moroccan courtroom March 24, and departed Morocco the next day.

“From today, I’m a free man,” he said afterward. “I proved to them that I wasn’t holding any money and that the local company that had denied having the money actually had it all along.

“Once the officials of this company discovered that I was planning to sue them, suddenly they found the money. The judge said that he couldn’t remember another case where someone was accused so fast and in such an arrogant way.”

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