Rasmea Odeh avoids prison by accepting plea deal
Palestinian community leader, activist, and torture survivor Rasmea Odeh announced through the Rasmea Defense Committee that she would accept a plea deal on her immigration charges, bringing her years-long fight with the U.S. justice system to an end.
Considering the political climate, Odeh’s defense team announced that she had made the decision to plead guilty to unlawful procurement of naturalization, forfeit her U.S. citizenship and be deported to Jordan, and in return she will not serve any prison time. The prosecution originally wanted Odeh to serve a 5-7 year sentence.
Odeh was convicted in 2014 by a U.S. federal court of falsifying her immigration documents, but her defense successfully appealed for a new trial last year, saying that Judge Gershwin Drain had unfairly prohibited discussion of Odeh’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the first trial. Following the appeal victory, prosecutors filed a new indictment labeling her as a “terrorist” in court documents.
“Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel L. Lemisch and [Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan] Tukel clearly want to dodge a public and legal defense that puts U.S.-backed Israel on trial for its crimes against [Odeh] and its continuing crimes against the Palestinian people as a whole,” the Rasmea Defense Committee statement read.
Citing the “current, racist political climate” and the appointment of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the defense committee said that they did not believe Odeh could avoid prison time without accepting a plea deal.
Odeh was tortured and sexually abused in 1969 by Israeli forces and eventually confessed to a Jerusalem bombing attack. She maintains that her confession was coerced and she testified about her experiences at the United Nations in 1979 when she was released in a prisoner exchange.
In 2013, more than 20 years after she arrived in the United States, Odeh was arrested for omitting the Israeli conviction on her immigration forms, an omission which her attorneys argue was a result of PTSD.
Odeh’s supporters point out that her torture, conviction and release were widely known, including in the U.S., making it impossible for her to have in fact deceived the government regarding her past.
The Rasmea Defense Committee focused on the political motivations of her arrest and conviction in their statement on the decision, and praised her public service and activism.
“From the Movement for Black Lives in Ferguson, Chicago, and beyond, to the call for a global #WomenStrike on International Women’s Day, Rasmea has become synonymous with resilience and resistance. This fight not only brought her story to the U.S. and the world, but also pushed forward the cause of the liberation of Palestine,” the statement read.
They also expressed appreciation for Odeh’s wide network of supporters, many of whom have accompanied her to court dates and led grassroots campaigns across the country under the hashtag #JusticeforRasmea.
“The case of Rasmea Odeh presents us all with an example of how to resist. The current political climate is formidable. The Muslim Ban, attacks on Latino immigrants and Black people, the cuts to programs serving women … these and other attacks will call on each of us to be unwavering, like Rasmea; to be consistent like her supporters; and to never run scared or fall silent in the face of injustice,” the statement said.
Odeh’s attorneys and the office of U.S. Attorney General Daniel L. Lemisch did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication.