Rasmea Odeh’s defense gears up for trial

Rasmea Odeh

Update: As of March 23rd, Rasmea Odeh has decided to accept an agreement to plea guilty to Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. She will lose U.S. citizen status, and thus will be forced to leave the country. However, she will not have to spend any more time at an ICE detention facility.

The legal defense team representing Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh, including Michael Deutsch and Jim Fennerty, have filed important motions in anticipation of her trial on May 30.

Odeh, who was exiled from her village in Palestine by Israeli forces in 1948 and again in 1967, was “convicted” by an Israeli military court for alleged participation in bombings in 1969. This conviction was based on a false confession Odeh made after she was physically, psychologically and sexually tortured by Israeli military officers for weeks. She served 10 years in Israeli prison, where she was subjected to harsh living conditions and brutal treatment.

In 2013, Odeh was arrested in her Chicago home by agents of the Department of Homeland Security because she failed to disclose her 1969 conviction on her immigration application. When her case went to trial, the Israeli military court conviction was allowed to be entered into evidence. However, despite being documented by the United Nations, Odeh’s testimony about her torture was barred from the trial. Also barred was the testimony of clinical psychologist Dr. Mary Fabri, who had diagnosed Odeh with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Odeh was convicted in the unjust trial; in March 2015 she was sentenced to 18 months in prison and subsequent deportation. However, she remained free on bond due to the effort of organizers. Since then, an appeals court has affirmed that Odeh suffers from PTSD, and thus her right to a full defense was violated in the original trial. The appeals court overturned the original decision, forcing a retrial.

Prosecutors added two new allegations to the indictment on Dec. 13: first, the “crimes” she confessed to after being subjected to torture constitute “terrorist activity”; and second, she failed to disclose a supposed association with a “designated terrorist organization.” This brings the severity of the case far beyond immigration fraud.

Odeh’s defense team filed a motion on Jan. 31 to dismiss this new, politically motivated indictment on the grounds that it significantly broadens the scope of the case and that it was filed beyond the statute of limitations on the alleged 2004 immigration offense.

During the week of March 13, attorneys representing Odeh filed new motions in an effort to force the court to consider the role of torture in Odeh’s 1969 conviction. One motion calls on Judge Gershwin Drain to dismiss all evidence obtained through torture, citing the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the Constitution, in addition to international law. In a second motion, Deutsch is requesting that the prosecution provide all evidence relating to Odeh’s arrest and torture by Israeli forces. “Use of force” guidelines and other documents will help the defense team demonstrate that torture is a systemic tool that Israeli forces use against Palestinians.

Judge Drain will rule on all the motions at the next pretrial hearing scheduled for April 25.

Odeh is a beloved activist in the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities in Chicago. She has been an organizer with the Arab American Action Network since 2004, helping hundreds of immigrant women.

It is ultimately Odeh’s status as a Palestinian woman and activist that has put her under attack by the U.S. government. But Odeh has received widespread support, both in Chicago and worldwide. The Odeh Defense Committee continues to fight on her behalf.

Odeh’s case is another in a long string of U.S. and Israeli state repression against Palestinian freedom fighters. Like Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, the MOVE 9, Oscar López Rivera and the thousands of other political prisoners targeted by the U.S. government, Odeh must be defended!