Rasmea Odeh fights jail, deportation

Nov. 10 — Rasmea Odeh was found guilty of one count of unlawful procurement of naturalization today after a short deliberation by the jury in federal court here. Odeh and her supporters from around the country were awaiting the jury verdict since 8 a.m. There was anger but no surprise, since Judge Gershwin Drain had made numerous rulings that restricted Odeh’s defense attorneys from presenting almost their entire defense arguments and facts.

Jess Sundin, speaking for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, condemned the verdict and stated, “Everyone who cares about justice should be angry about what is happening here in Detroit. We need to continue our support for Rasmea. We will continue to stand with her.” (fightbacknews.org, Nov. 10)

At a hearing in the afternoon on a motion by the prosecutor to revoke Odeh’s bond, the judge agreed. Odeh was handcuffed by federal marshals and taken into custody.

For four days starting Nov. 4, almost 100 supporters gathered at the federal courthouse to show Odeh solidarity and support. Odeh is a Palestinian who emigrated to the United States 20 years ago and became a U.S. citizen in 2004. She was targeted by the FBI and Homeland Security for jail and deportation, accused of making false statements on her naturalization application.

Supporters have come from across Michigan, Illinois and other states, rallying in the early morning before court started, packing the courtroom and an overflow room where they watched live video of the proceedings, and then rallying outside the courthouse to hear from Odeh and her attorney at the end of each day.

Below are excerpts from a statement by Odeh’s defense committee issued after the last day of testimony on Nov. 7 and before jury deliberations began:

“On the coldest morning all week, supporters gathered early outside the federal courthouse in Detroit on the final day of the trial for Rasmea Odeh. Each day of the trial security officers have closed the main courtroom before it was full. Today supporters squeezed into the seats early, ensuring no one would miss the chance to stick by the beloved Palestinian community icon, on trial for allegedly gaining citizenship unlawfully because of answers she gave on her naturalization documents. [Odeh’s support included] 20 members of the Arab Women’s Committee that she founded in Chicago.

“There was palpable tension when U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel rose to begin his cross-examination. For more than half an hour he tried to trip up [Odeh] with questions, asking the same ones repeatedly, and often interrupting her, prompting Judge [Gershwin] Drain to admonish him at least twice. In spite of this, [Odeh] remained calm and clear, frustrating Tukel’s attempt to undermine her credibility or trap her into misspeaking. As a survivor of vicious Israeli physical and sexual torture, her legendary strength was in full effect in the courtroom.

“Throughout the trial, [Odeh]’s defense has been hindered by countless unjust rulings from Judge Drain, including his refusal to allow evidence about either the torture that forced Rasmea into a confession [in 1969 in Israel] and a 10-year sentence [there] as a political prisoner, or the chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that caused her to block out that time in her life when she answered the questions on the naturalization form [25 years later].

“… [W]e also know that the government’s case, an immigration charge, is nothing but a pretext. Rasmea is under attack because she is Palestinian, Arab and Muslim; because U.S. law enforcement is going after our successful Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid; and because she embodies the proud and steadfast Palestinian struggle for self-determination, liberation and the Right of Return.” (stopfbi.net)

Activists have vowed to continue the fight for justice for Rasmea Odeh.