Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian American facing deportation, has won an important legal victory from the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The three-member panel ruled unanimously on Feb. 25 that District Court Judge Gershwin Drain erred during Odeh’s trial in 2014 when he excluded expert testimony on how Israeli torture of Odeh had affected her memory when she filled out U.S. immigration forms two decades ago.
The Rasmea Defense Committee, which represents more than 50 organizations across the U.S., has called this court decision “a partial victory.” In March 2015, Odeh had been sentenced by Judge Drain in Detroit to 18 months in prison, $1,100 in fines and having her citizenship revoked so she could be deported.
The appeals court decision means that if Judge Drain cannot show any new reason to exclude this testimony, then Odeh must be granted a new trial. This will “finally allow her to tell the entire story of Israel forcing her to falsely confess to bombings in 1969, when she endured over three weeks of vicious sexual, physical and psychological torture at the hands of the Israeli military.”
(justice4rasmea.org, Feb. 26)
When Israel was established in 1948, Odeh’s family was driven from their homes by Zionist terror groups. First, they were forced into a refugee camp and then had to move again when Israel launched its 1967 war and began its occupation of both the West Bank and Gaza.
In 1969, Odeh was arrested for a supermarket bombing in Israel. While in an Israeli prison, she was tortured and raped. She was forced to confess to the bombing before a military court and spent the next 10 years in the Israeli prison system. She was freed in 1979 in a prisoner exchange between the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Tel Aviv.
In 1995, Odeh moved to the U.S. to take care of her father, who was suffering from cancer. She became a leading figure in Chicago’s Palestinian and Middle Eastern immigrant community. She assisted thousands of Arab women as they adjusted to life in the U.S. Many of these women came to Detroit to support Odeh at her trial.
Before her sentencing, defense attorney Michael Deutsch argued that throughout history oppressed people like Odeh have resisted injustice and occupation. Deutsch pointed to Nelson Mandela, labeled a terrorist by both the apartheid South African regime and the U.S., but recognized around the world as a freedom fighter.
U.S. harbors real terrorists
The U.S. government has and is harboring many actual terrorists. After World War II and in anticipation of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, many Nazi war criminals were sheltered in the U.S. and abroad by U.S. imperialism. Wernher von Braun, who developed Germany’s infamous V2 rocket, which killed thousands of civilians and was manufactured by concentration camp slave labor, was sheltered and employed by the Pentagon and NASA.
Another terrorist supported by Washington is Luis Posada Carriles. With CIA approval, Posada planted the bomb that killed 73 people on a Cuban airliner in 1976. He was released in 2007 by the same U.S. federal court system that convicted Rasmea Odeh.
Adding to the significance of Odeh’s legal victory is the generally conservative character of the Circuit Court, which has upheld bans on same-sex marriage in several states. This ruling, coming after a vigorous campaign on her behalf, is expected to advance the struggle to free her of all charges.
“Rasmea and we are celebrating our victory today, and are thankful for the work of our great lawyers and thousands of people across the U.S. and the world who have stood with her,” said Lara Kiswani of the Odeh support committee’s Bay Area chapter. “And besides fundraising, we want everyone to continue to organize educational events, like our International Women’s Day celebrations honoring Rasmea in San Francisco, Chicago, Minneapolis and other cities.” (justice4rasmea.org, Feb. 26)