For immediate release:
November 4, 2014
212-679-5100, ext. 15
DETROIT–Jury selection begins today in the trial of Palestinian American community leader Rasmea Odeh, 67, for alleged immigration fraud. National Lawyers Guild (NLG) members Michael Deutsch, Jim Fennerty, Dennis Cunningham, and William Goodman are representing her. Since her arrest a year ago, the NLG has been working to free Odeh as part of the Rasmea Defense Committee, which maintains that the US government is using alleged immigration violations as a pretext for persecuting Odeh’s Palestine activism.
Odeh first arrived in the US in 1994 and moved to Chicago over a decade ago, establishing herself in the community as a beloved activist and educator, and serving as Associate Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) since 2004. Through her work, she has become a well-respected civil and human rights leader in her community, lending support to hundreds of Arab immigrant women while also advocating for Palestinian rights. In early 2013, she was awarded the “Outstanding Community Leader Award” from the Chicago Cultural Alliance. Now, the US government is charging her with “Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization,” and she faces up to 10 years in prison and immediate deportation upon release.
On the morning of October 22, 2013, DHS agents raided Odeh’s Chicago home and arrested her, alleging that she failed to mention having served time in an Israeli prison on her naturalization application. Forty-five years ago in Ramallah, Israeli forces arrested and imprisoned Odeh on bombing charges, and subjected her to 45 days of brutal physical and sexual torture that eventually forced a confession. The Israeli military tribunal — which convicts Palestinians at a rate of 99.74% — convicted her, and Odeh spent the next decade in an Israeli prisons. She was exiled from her native Palestine upon release and eventually moved to the United States in 1994; 10 years later, she obtained US citizenship.
The case has brought national attention to the US government’s repressive surveillance programs that systematically target and profile Arab American communities in the name of “anti-terrorism.” “The targeting of Rasmea Odeh is the latest shameful episode in the US government’s systematic crackdown on activist Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. The NLG is committed to vigorously defending Rasmea and exposing the government’s repressive tactics aimed to silence free speech,” said NLG President Azadeh Shahshahani.
In pretrial hearings one week ago, Federal US District Judge Gershwin A. Drain ruled that torture evidence will not be admissible in court, gutting the crux of Odeh’s defense: “The judge’s rulings barring Ms. Odeh’s Post-traumatic stress disorder defense and prohibiting the defendant herself from any testimony about her torture or innocence, has denied Ms. Odeh any possibility of a fair trial and is consistent with the US complicity with Israel in covering up systematic human rights violations of the Palestinian people,” Deutsch said. The implications of Judge Drain’s decision are far-reaching; as Fennerty added, “Rasmea could have accepted a plea agreement, but she wanted to tell her story. Not just for herself, but the thousands of Palestinians who have been tortured by the Israeli military.”
The National Lawyers Guild was formed in 1937 as the nation’s first racially integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.