Chicago — In a major development, attorneys for Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh filed a motion July 14 calling for Judge Paul D. Borman to recuse himself from the case. The supporting brief argues that Borman, a lifelong and dedicated supporter of Israel, cannot play the “neutral and detached” role that the law requires.
A spurious report from the Associated Press irresponsibly presumes that the defense is bringing this motion because Judge Borman is Jewish. Odeh and her attorneys, including Michael Deutsch, who is Jewish himself, deny this, noting that the motion and supporting brief extensively document Borman’s close ties to the state of Israel, never once mentioning his religion. The AP article has been picked up across the country, and the national Rasmea Defense Committee demands a retraction.
Odeh has pled not guilty to unlawful procurement of naturalization, a charge alleging that she failed to mention, in her 2004 application for U.S. citizenship, that she was arrested in Palestine 45 years ago, and tried in an Israeli military court that “convicts” 99.74 percent of Palestinians who come before it. Odeh was physically and sexually tortured into a confession by Israeli prison authorities in 1969.
The motion describes how this is important to her defense: “The defendant’s case directly raises issues about the legality of the continuing 47-year belligerent occupation of the West Bank by the State of Israel and the State’s policy of sanctioning the systematic torture of Palestinian detainees by the Israeli military and security police.”
In the papers filed with the court, attorneys Deutsch and James Fennerty describe Judge Borman’s long history of support for Israel. They argue: “Clearly, one who has been a life-long supporter and promoter of Israel and has deep ties to the State of Israel spanning over 50 years, who no doubts believes that Israel is a great democracy and protector of human rights, cannot be ‘reasonably’ said to be impartial when these claims of torture and illegality are raised by a Palestinian defendant.
“Further, it is reasonable to conclude that as a result of this Court’s many trips to Israel … that this Court has ‘personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning this case.’”
According to one of the defense committee’s spokespeople, Hatem Abudayyeh, “This motion is about trying to get [Odeh] a fair trial. Borman’s bias is clear.”
“Winning this case is not limited to a legal strategy,” Abudayyeh continued. “Thousands of people from across the country are supporting and fighting for Rasmea Odeh. We are urging the government to drop the charges against her. If they don’t, we are mobilizing to fill the courtroom every day of the trial.”
The trial is set for Sept. 8 in Detroit.