Rasmea Odeh is a 67 year old Palestinian American community leader who was tortured by the israeli government in 1969. On April 23rd, she is ending her battle to win justice from the U.S. legal system.
After living in this country for over 20 years, Rasmea was charged in 2013 with an immigration violation that was always just a pretext for a broader attempt to criminalize the Palestine liberation movement. For the past 3 ½ years she has fought her charges. Hundreds of supporters have supported her at every court appearance, and thousands of people across the country and the world have sent letters and financial support.
In her 2014 trial in U.S. federal court, Rasmea was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for allegedly giving false answers to questions on her applications for permanent residency and citizenship. She was not allowed to present evidence that she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the torture in Israel. But she finally won an appeal in 2016, and a new trial was scheduled based on the excluded torture evidence. In an obviously vindictive move, the government then filed a new superseding indictment that falsely accused Rasmea of being a “terrorist” and a member of a “designated terrorist organization.” (More info on www.justice4Rasmea.org )
But Rasmea, looking at the current political climate in the country, felt that the prospects for a fair trial are slimmer than ever. The prosecution team is now controlled by the new u.s. attorney general, Sessions, and the superseding indictment re-frames this as a case about “terrorism” rather than immigration. As a Palestinian who has dedicated her life to the cause of liberation, it is impossible for Rasmea to expect a fair trial in U.S. courts.
Facing a possible 18 months or more of imprisonment, as well as the possibility of indefinite detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Rasmea has made the difficult decision to accept a plea agreement. She will plead guilty to Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, lose her U.S. citizenship, and be forced to leave the country. But she will exit the U.S. without having to serve any more time in prison or ICE detention, a victory considering that the government had earlier fought for a sentence of 5-7 years.
A hearing date has been set for April 25th, when the judge will consider the plea agreement. There will be hundreds of supporters attending. After that, Rasmea will continue her organizing work wherever she is, and so will we.
As she said to supporters outside the courthouse after the initial verdict, “There is justice in this world, we will find it. We will face injustice and we have to change this world, not just in this country, in all the world in all the places there is no justice, we have to bring the justice together. In spite of everything, we are the stronger people, not the government who is unjust.”