A Detroit jury found Rasmea (Rasmieh) Odeh, 67, guilty of lying on her U.S. immigration forms after more than a year of harassment and persecution by the pro-Israel lobby. The judge in the case refused to allow Odeh to address issues of Israel’s abuse of Palestinian civilians and narrowed the trial to only the issue of “lying” on a US Immigration form.
By Ray HananiaRasmea Odeh
Rasmea (Rasmieh) Yousef Odeh, 67, was convicted of lying on her U.S. immigration form by a Detroit jury and sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Judge Gershwin Drain.
Odeh’s attorney, Michael Deutsch of the People’s Law Offices of Chicago, said that Odeh’s ability to defend herself and portray herself as the victim of Israeli discrimination was handicapped when Judge Drain excluded the political aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict from the trial.
Despite the conviction, the sentence was a slap in the face of the Justice Department which originally demanded 10 years imprisonment for Odeh and later reduced the demand to 5 to 7 years.
“The 18 months is far less than what the government wanted, but it is still too much,” Deutsch said.
Deutsch said he will file an appeal of the conviction and estimated it could take between four and eight months before the process is completed. If the conviction is not overturned, when Odeh completes the 18 month sentence, she will be deported to Jordan
“Judge Drain basically said that we could not bring in any evidence of the politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict so the public image that Israel is the good guy and the Palestinians are the terrorists weighed heavily against her case,” Deutsch explained.
“The judge typically wanted to depoliticize the case saying it isn’t about Israel and Palestine, when it fact Rasmieh Odeh’s case is exactly about the unfair politics of the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
Deutsch said that Odeh served 10 years in an Israeli prison after she was convicted by an Israeli military court on charges of terrorism. More than 100,000 Palestinians have been imprisoned by Israel since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and in most cases, the prisoners have been denied both legal representation and the ability to defend themselves. Israel’s court system is historically biased against non-Jews, especially those that have criticized Israel and called for its dismantling and replacement with a Democratic State where non-Jews can be treated as equals.
In an interview with The Arab Daily News, Deutsch said that the judge allowed the prosecutors to assert that Odeh had been convicted of terrorism by the Israel court system, but refused to allow Odeh’s defense team to properly portray the corruption nature of Israel’s judicial system in which nearly 99 percent of all Palestinians who appear before the Israeli courts are convicted of all charges while Israelis and Jewish citizens are almost either always cleared of charges or, if convicted, their sentences are significantly reduced or waived, serving no time.
“It’s clearly an imbalanced system and the jury was allowed to keep that bias in their heads without hearing claims to challenge the perception that Rasmea was a terrorist,” Deutsch said.
“Americans have been sold a false narrative that the Israelis are the victims and the Palestinians are the terrorists and we were not allowed to challenge that in the trial. That was significant.”
Deutsch said prosecutors compared Odeh, who age was not permitted to be addressed as a mitigating factor, to the Rwandan genocide and the Guatamalan massacres, but added that Odeh’s defense was never permitted to challenge the Israeli charges of terrorism.
Deustch previously defended Mohamed Salah (Mohammed Saleh)who was also falsely accused of being a terrorist mastermind by the Israelis and a World Commander of Hamas and indicted by the U.S. Government in August 2004. But after years of persecution by the government, when the Saleh case finally went to trial, the jury rejected the terrorism charges and only convicted him on a minor charge of having allegedly lied in interrogatories in response to suits filed by pro-Israel activists.
Salah had been arrested by the Israelis while on a humanitarian mission to help Palestinians in 1993 in the Gaza Strip. He was jailed and tortured by the Israelis and forced to confess to raising funds for “terrorist groups.” He served four years in an Israeli prison and, like Odeh, was released and was allowed to return to his family in the United States in 1997.
“Salah was acquitted of the major terrorism charges and the RICO charges because we were able to mount a defense that explored the politics and the bias of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We were able to challenge the stereotypes the jury believed about Palestinians and the Israeli justice system,” Deutsch said.
“Salah was sentenced to 20 months in prison over his answering a question in a interrogatory brought by pro-Israel groups. He said he was never involved in Hamas.”
Odeh entered the United States in 1995 and filed a naturalization application in 2004. She argued that when she completed her form in 1995 and was asked if she had ever been convicted, she believed the question referred to any convictions while in the United States, and said no. Odeh became a citizen and began working with the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), a social service organization with strong pro-Palestinian activist ties but also close ties to Chicago’s and Illinois’ political establishment, receiving government grants to provide social services.
Odeh, a naturalized citizen for nearly 10 years, was an Associate Director of the AAAN and organizer of the acclaimed Arab Women’s Committee in Chicago. She countered Israeli charges that she was tortured while in an Israeli prison before being forced to admit to participation in the 1969 attacks which claimed the lives of two Israelis. That same week, 23 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories.
But Odeh’s tribulations began when the FBI and Justice Department targeted 23 Palestinian and anti-War activists and raided their homes and offices on Friday Sept. 24, 2010. The Government claimed the investigation and subsequent indictments of some of the activists including AAAN Executive Director Hatem AbuDayyeh were related to “a Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.”
Deutsch represented AbuDayyeh and said that despite the subsequent indictment, which was politically motivated, there has never been any charges.
“What happened was that during that raid of the home of these activists, the FBI came across Rasmea’s name at the AAAN and then reached out to the Israelis who immediately provided them with their information on her trial and conviction,” Deutsch said.
“The Israelis made all kinds of accusations about Odeh which led them to her immigration forms.”
Deutsch said AbuDayyeh was subpoenaed but has never been indicted or charged by the government.
Odeh was arrested three years later on October 22, 2013 and charged the same day. She had been convicted of two bombings that took place in 1969 at a time of heightened violence by Israelis and Palestinians following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Israel initiated policies of expelling Palestinians from the occupied territories and then began appropriating Palestinian lands to build illegal Israel settlements.
Most Israeli settlers are armed extremists who have engaged in or supported violence and terrorism against Palestinians. The 1969 bombing was a part of the ongoing war between Israelis and Palestinians. No Israelis have been convicted of their terrorism and violence against Palestinians. Those facts were not permitted to be brought into the trial in Drain’s courtroom.
Deutsch said he is concerned about Odeh’s defense given the enormous bias against Palestinians in the American judicial system.
“The appeal is going to be tough but we are going to appeal,” Deutsch said.
Odeh will remain free pending the appeal, Deutsch said.