Rasmea Odeh case: Judge Borman forced to step down

Detroit — Judge Paul D. Borman was forced to remove himself from the case of Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh on Aug 11. Late last month, Judge Borman stridently denied a defense motion calling on him to step down. The motion asserted that his lifelong support for the state of Israel — whose arrest, torture and conviction of Odeh for alleged Jerusalem bombings in 1969 is at issue in this case — would not allow for a fair trial.

Odeh has pleaded not guilty to the charge of “unlawful procurement of naturalization” and vehemently refutes the Israeli convictions, which were based on a forced confession after extended periods of vicious physical and sexual torture.

In an unexpected turn of events, Borman admitted his financial ties to Israel “could be perceived as establishing a reasonably objective inference of a lack of impartiality in the context of the issues presented in this case.” Defense claims of pro-Israel bias are vindicated, and Borman has removed himself. The case has been randomly reassigned to U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain.

When Borman refused the motion for him to step down on July 31, he dismissed defense arguments about his decades of trips to and fundraising for Israel, claiming his “religious convictions” did not bring his impartiality into question.

According to supporters, Borman was falsely covering Zionist ideology with Judaism. “We opposed Judge Borman not because of his Jewish faith, but because of his decades of support for the state of Israel,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, a spokesperson for Odeh’s defense committee. “Rasmea overcame vicious torture by Israeli authorities while imprisoned in Palestine in the 70s. She has committed no crime and the government has no case. We need a judge willing to listen to a defense that puts Israel on trial for its crimes against Rasmea, and against all Palestinians.”

Supporters of Odeh hail this as a victory for the defense, but are redoubling efforts to win justice for Rasmea.

Abudayyeh continued, “This case is a political attack on the Palestine liberation movement and that means we need a political defense as much as a legal defense. Thousands of people from across the country are fighting for Rasmea, demanding that the government drop the charges against her. If they don’t, we are still going all out for Detroit, to fill the courtroom every day of the trial.”

A status hearing in front of Judge Drain is still planned for Tuesday, Sept. 2, in Detroit, and the Rasmea Defense Committee is calling for supporters to pack the courthouse and to call the prosecutors to demand that they drop the charges on that day. The date of the actual trial will be rescheduled.