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Attorney: Why is Rasmea Odeh targeted now?

By staff |
November 12, 2013
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Nov. 12 press conference on Rasmea Odeh case.
Nov. 12 press conference on Rasmea Odeh case. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Chicago, IL - Michael Deutsch of the National Lawyers Guild and the People’s Law Office spoke Nov. 12 about the case of Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a 65-year-old, Palestinian American, women's rights activist who was recently indicted and tomorrow faces arraignment Nov. 13 in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The immigration charge against Odeh could result in ten years in prison and deportation for violations in her application for citizenship.

Deutsch said the situation, “appears to be the Department of Homeland Security behaving in a discriminatory fashion, targeting Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians for selective prosecution.”

He recounted the history since 9/11 of the singling out of these communities by the U.S. government, especially in Chicago, including the case of Dr. Muhammad Salah, who the U.S. Attorney prosecuted for aiding people living under Israeli occupation. Salah’s trial featured Israeli agents testifying in secret with evidence obtained through torture.

Deutsch described the case of the 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists whose homes were raided and who were subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney in 2010 for their efforts in support of Palestinians. The U.S. Attorney refuses to end this investigation. “The investigation of Rasmea Odeh seems to grow out of the case of the 23, because her colleague at the Arab American Action Network, Hatem Abudayyeh, was one of those raided and subpoenaed.”

From these experiences, Deutsch stated, “We know that the U.S. government works closely with Israeli officials, and therefore it is a certainty that the U.S. government knew of Odeh’s legal history at the time she emigrated and at the time she applied for citizenship. Why then is she being charged now after 20 years of model citizenship and good deeds in service of her community?”

Deutsch also cited a report by the ACLU from August of this year, “Muslims Need Not Apply,” which exposes the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program” of the Immigration Services. “This program targets Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian immigrants to deny them their requests for citizenship,” explained Deutsch.

These examples together were the basis of his statements of concern about discriminatory, selective prosecution.

Hatem Abudayyeh - a co-worker of Rasmea Odeh for almost ten years and who also represented the U.S. Palestinian Community Network and the Committee Against Political Repression - reminded everyone that Odeh was born in the same exact year that her people were pushed out of Palestine in 1948 and, because of that experience, she has dedicated her whole life to social justice. She is a mentor to dozens of activists and organizers across the country and leads a women's rights organization of over 600 members.

Abudayyeh also said that Odeh is receiving massive support from all across the world, including almost 100 organizations in the U.S. that have written letters or signed onto statements condemning the indictment.

“We are taking a charter bus and a car caravan to be with Rasmea tomorrow at her arraignment in Detroit. Hundreds from Michigan will meet us there. And hundreds more in Gainesville, Philadelphia, D.C., New York, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and other towns across the U.S. will be rallying in support of Rasmea and to demand that U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade drop the charges now.”

Margaret Jackson, interim Regional Director of the American Friends Service Committee, spoke against the racism of the U.S. government for this political attack on a Palestinian woman and stated, “As a person of color, I can tell you I’ve experienced racism in this society.” To show her support of the human rights work that Rasmea has done in Chicago, she declared, “I’m proud to stand with Rasmea Odeh.”

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