Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh’s conviction vacated

The following is a statement from the Center for Constitutional Rights issued Feb. 25.

Rasmea Odeh

Rasmea Odeh

A U.S. court of appeals today has vacated the immigration fraud conviction of Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh. Odeh was convicted in 2014 for failing to disclose a 1969 arrest and conviction in an Israeli military court on her U.S. immigration and naturalization documents. Odeh had been subjected to torture, including rape, by Israeli interrogators and forced to sign a false confession.

Rasmea Odeh was convicted in a heavily politicized trial as a result of her activism. We are relieved that the appeals court has recognized that evidence of her torture and PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] should not have been categorically excluded during her trial.

The court’s decision presents a great victory to anti-torture advocates and survivors of torture. It affirms that severe human rights violations should be taken seriously when deciding domestic cases impacted by the effects of those violations and that the experience of torture can have recurring psychological effects on the memory of survivors. We hope this legal nightmare will soon be over for Rasmea, who has been forced to relive unthinkable trauma throughout this process.

The CCR filed an amicus brief in the appeal of Odeh’s conviction on behalf of five organizations with extensive expertise on the psychological and physical impact of torture on victims: the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Bellevue/NYU Program For Survivors of Torture, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, REDRESS [a London-based human rights organization], and World Organization Against Torture. The brief argued that the jury should have been able to consider expert testimony from health professionals about Odeh’s psychological state, in order to determine whether she “knowingly” misrepresented whether she had been arrested or convicted on immigration forms.