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Trial of Palestinian American leader of Rasmea Odeh starts in Detroit

“Organized mass struggle is the only way justice is won” say activists
By Joe Iosbaker |
November 4, 2014
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Detroit protest at opening of Rasmea Odeh trial. (FightBack!News/Staff)

Detroit, MI - Judge Gershwin Drain oversaw jury selection today in the case of Rasmea Odeh. Odeh is on trial in Detroit for failing to disclose in her application for citizenship that she was tortured by the Israeli military in 1969 until she confessed to a crime she didn’t commit. Over 90 people filled the overflow room set up for her supporters to watch on close circuit television.

In a series of decisions in recent weeks, Judge Drain created a situation where Odeh is unable to get a fair trial. He refused to allow evidence of her torture to be presented to the jury, but at the same time, agreed that the jury would be told that she is ‘guilty’ of that crime.

During the questioning of potential jurors, Drain repeatedly declared to them, “The evidence will show she was convicted of a bombing 45 years ago.” And further, “Would it affect you if you knew that two people died and there were multiple people injured?” After each time he repeated this, prospective jurors would declare that their minds were made up by this information. Drain had convinced them that Rasmea was a criminal. For almost an hour, more had to be brought from the pool, only to be released again when they fell for his description.

Finally, a kitchen worker in the jury pool confronted the judge after hearing multiple times about the supposed crime committed 45 years ago. He said, “I’m confused about why you keep mentioning the conviction from back then?” The judge reiterated his point, and the man replied, “What exactly is she being charged with? Why do you keep bringing this up?”

Drain also clumsily asked those in the jury box, “Do you have any biases against Palestinians or Muslims?” “Everyone has the capacity to lie? Do you find Palestinians or Muslims to be more likely to lie?”

George Khoury, a veteran activist from the Detroit area, commented, “Not once did he ask if they had a bias against Israelis. It was their military court that convicted her. It was them who tortured her.”

When a Muslim woman in the jury seats raised her hand and asked, “What if I have a bias in favor of Muslims?,” the crowd in the overflow room burst into laughter and then applause in response.

Jess Sundin of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression said, “Rasmea is being railroaded in this trial. You have to call if a railroad when a judge agrees with prosecutors to uphold the decision of an Israeli military court, which violates international law; a judge who accepts a conviction based on a confession extracted through torture; and also refuses to allow any evidence of the torture she endured.”

The Rasmea Defense Committee led a march of supporters through downtown Detroit after court recessed. In a cold rain, there were determined faces all around. Frank Chapman of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression urged people on. “We can’t trust in politicians or judges. Organized mass struggle is the only way justice is won.”