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Rasmea Odeh appeals, supporters await ruling

By Tom Burke |
October 15, 2015
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 Rasmea Odeh in front of Federal Appeals Court, Oct. 14, In Cincinnati, Ohio.
Rasmea Odeh in front of Federal Appeals Court, Oct. 14, In Cincinnati, Ohio. (Fight back! News / Staff)

Cincinnati, OH - Supporters of Rasmea Odeh could be heard chanting from blocks away in downtown Cincinnati, Oct. 14. Bus riders on their way to morning shifts crossed the street to take leaflets, while curious business people were drawn to watch the protesters chant, “Justice for Rasmea! Justice for Rasmea!” and “DOJ, let’s be clear, Rasmea is welcome here!”

The spirited crowd of 120, coming from Chicago, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and a dozen other cities, stretched down the block and onto the steps of the Sixth Court of Appeals. The supporters rallied for an hour, lining up for the slow process of security checks, before packing the courtroom for Rasmea Odeh’s appeal hearing.

Rasmea Odeh is a prominent Palestinian American and women’s activist from Chicago who, after living in the U.S. for 20 years, was convicted of a single count of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization last November. She was then sentenced to 18 months in prison, to be followed by deportation.

At the age of 68, Rasmea Odeh is stoic and strong in the face of U.S. government political repression. Many anti-war and international solidarity groups and a growing list of faith and women’s groups support her.

At Odeh’s trial, her attorneys were not allowed to present important evidence for the defense, including that she was tortured, raped and forced to sign a false confession, while imprisoned by the Israeli military. The presiding judge also ruled that the fact she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was off limits for testimony and her expert witness was denied.

Inside the appeals court, a three judge panel heard Michael Deutsch, defense attorney for Rasmea Odeh. Deutsch argued that Judge Drain’s rulings in Detroit “denied Ms. Odeh a fair trial.”

Deutsch explained that when Rasmea Odeh attempted to speak about her abuse at the hands of the Israeli military, Judge Drain “admonished her and said she couldn’t speak about her torture.”

After U.S. Prosecutor Jonathan Tukel made his arguments to the three judge panel, Judge Rogers said, “If the testimony is relevant then we have the right to let them speak.”

Judge Rogers later said, “If they want to prove whether she was guilty of fraud, then they have to allow the testimony to find truth.”

After the appeal, defense attorney Deutsch said, “You could see the argument and the questions, but you are never sure exactly how it is going to come out. Based on my experience, I think we have a good chance of getting back to the District Court and having a new hearing before the judge.”

Deutsch ended by saying, “It is a good sign that the judges were engaged and interested.” It will likely take between one and five months for a written ruling.

Rasmea Odeh walked out of the court building to loud cheers and chants of “Rasmea, Rasmea, Rasmea!” She spoke about the growing campaign for justice and the importance of opposing political repression. She said to the big crowd in front of the court, “It because of you and your support that I am able to speak out and seek justice. Together we will win!”

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