Innocent, Ailing Man Held in Moroccan Prison

Family's calls for government intervention fall "on deaf ears"

A DesPlaines woman is begging the U.S. government to intervene to save her husband's life, while he remains locked up in a Moroccan prison on what she believes are trumped up drug charges.

James Willson, a retired airline pilot, was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Moroccan court after being convicted of illegally entering that country and drug trafficking.

Jean Willson believes the charges are preposterous. He's 67, a grandfather, has been involved in his community and doesn't have a criminal record, the Daily Herald reported.

The family claims Willson hired a local pilot for a tour in Spain, and during the flight, they had to make an emergency landing in northern Morocco.

Jean Willson said her husband was shocked and confused after the emergency landing. "When my husband got out of the plane, all of a sudden he was encountered and arrested and handcuffed and my husband didn't know why. They told him he was in Morocco, he said no, I'm in Spain."

But now, the family is more concerned for his life.

"We just heard that he's very, very ill, and even going to a hospital there isn't going to save him because he has no immune system anymore," said Marilyn Brief, the Willson's 45-year-old daughter. 

She visited her father last June and witnessed first hand that he had lost a lot of weight. Since then, the family has repeatedly beseeched state and federal legislators, the U.S. Embassy in Morocco and the U.S. State Department to intervene, but say their requests have fallen on deaf ears.

"We are embarrassed to be U.S. citizens, and that nobody listens," Brief said.

The Willson family has launched the Web site in hopes of attracting more attention and getting someone in a position of power to act.

The Willson's fear James Willson will die before anyone steps in to help. "He needs to be home yesterday, " said Jean Willson.

Willson's diabetes isn't being treated, the family says.  Moroccan authorities and the U.S. government dispute that.

Hundreds of U.S. citizens are jailed in foreign prisons every year and, in most cases, the United States steps in only if a prisoner is being abused or tortured, the paper said.

Contact Us