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Is our man in Morocco up to the job?

ICC Note: Editorial challenges US Ambassador to Morocco, Sam Kaplan, on his failure to protect Christians.

by Katherine Kersten

7/26/10 Morocco (StarTribune) – Minneapolis lawyer Sam Kaplan — a DFL
fundraiser extraordinaire — was a member
of Barack Obama’s national campaign-
finance committee. In 2009, Obama
rewarded him by naming him ambassador to
Morocco.

The exotic posting must have seemed a plum
job. Morocco has been known as an oasis
among Arab nations — largely free of the
repression that mars so many other Muslim
countries. It’s “the opportunity of a lifetime
for a guy from Minnesota,” Kaplan enthused
to the Star Tribune in April.

But since Kaplan’s arrival, Morocco has
turned from a diplomatic dream job to a d
epressing despotic reality. Since March, it
has expelled about 100 foreigners, including
50 U.S. citizens. Among the deportees were
foster parents at an orphanage,

businesspeople and aid workers who taught
the poor to grow their own food.

Their crime? Christian “proselytizing” —
against the law in this Muslim monarchy.

On June 17, some deportees told their heart-
wrenching stories at a hearing convened by
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va, cochairman of
Congress’s Human Rights Commission.

Witnesses included Eddie and Lynn Padilla,
foster parents at Village of Hope orphanage.
The orphanage — which has both Christian
and Muslim staff — cared for 33 abandoned
children and had operated for 10 years with
official approval. But in March, the police
moved in and swept through children’s
bedrooms while they slept, searching for
Christian literature.

After three days of grilling, the Padillas and
others were given two hours to clear out, as
their children sobbed in anguish. Though no
evidence was presented, their assets were
seized and their bank accounts frozen. Since
their departure, there is evidence that some
children have been beaten or drugged.

Witness Michael Cloud, also a Christian,
founded 12 centers that treat Moroccan
children with cerebral palsy. Cloud testified

that authorities barred his reentry as he tried
to return from Egypt (where his wife was
being treated for cancer). He was held for 13
hours and deported with no explanation. The
“hard work” of 14 years was lost, he stated.

So how’s our man Sam Kaplan doing
defending American citizens from these
egregious human-rights violations?

The Padillas testified that the U.S. Embassy
had no time for them during their ordeal:
“They just told us, “Do what they are telling
you to do.’ They offered no help … [or] any
kind of counsel, just pack and go.” Cloud
testified that when he sought help, the
embassy just gave him a list of lawyers.

At the hearing, international-law expert
Sandra Bunn-Livingstone stated that despite
victims’ pleas, Kaplan refused to release a
Moroccan government diplomatic note with a
list of deportees, citing protocol. As a result,
“Americans who would like to appeal under
Moroccan law … have been refused that right”
since they lack written proof of expulsion,
she said. The British and Canadian
governments did hand over such notes, she
added.

Perhaps Kaplan had other priorities. “A few
weeks ago,” Cloud testified, “the American

embassy in Rabat brought Moroccans to
Washington, D.C., and fed them and housed
them to help them brainstorm on how to
build businesses in the Muslim world.”

That would make sense. According to the
embassy website, Kaplan’s goal as
ambassador is “to help fulfill President
Obama’s vision of a new beginning for U.S.
relations with the Muslim world based on
mutual respect and … mutual interest.”

In April, Kaplan responded to critics. He told
the Star Tribune he had released a statement
saying that the embassy was “distressed” by
the expulsions. “We hope to see meaningful
improvements in the application of due
process,” he wrote.

What’s Kaplan doing to alleviate distress and
promote due process?

A top priority seems to be to impress the
Moroccan media, which complained that his
statement had “stepped over the diplomatic
line,” according to the Star Tribune. “When
your press has been almost unanimously
positive for 5 1/2 months, the change is
something that is different,” Kaplan
explained.

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