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Palestinian activist Odeh gets new US trial

Rasmea Odeh was convicted of immigration fraud in 2014, but she will get a new trial because judge excluded defence evidence
Odeh's supporters described the decision as a victory (MEE)

Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh has been granted a new trial in her US immigration fraud case.

In 2014, Odeh was convicted of unlawful procurement of US citizenship, but the new decision on Tuesday reverses that ruling.

Odeh was charged because she failed to disclose on her US naturalisation application that she was jailed for 10 years in Israel after a military court found her guilty of involvement in a 1969 super market bombing in Jerusalem. She says the Israeli case was based on a forced confession obtained by torture.

However, during her trial in 2014, the judge barred Odeh from discussing her ordeal in Israel. The defence had planned to argue that Odeh suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the torture, which she says included rape. A psychological expert was going to testify that PTSD affected Odeh’s understanding of the US application questions on whether she had ever been convicted of a crime.

READ: Rasmea Odeh - A 'symbol' for Palestinian struggle in US

A higher court found that the judge erred by excluding that evidence. After cancelling a hearing where prosecutors were going to question the psychological expert last month, US Judge Gershwin Drain decided to grant Odeh a new trial, where the PTSD evidence will be admissible.

Hatem Abudayyeh, of the Rasmea Defense Committee, described the ruling as a “huge victory”.

Odeh, a Chicago-based activist, will be tried in Detroit, where she obtained her US citizenship in 2004.

Her supporters say the prosecution is a part of a US campaign to harass anti-war and Palestinian rights activists.

Abudayyeh said the Defense Committee will not take a long time celebrating, as Odeh’s backers are planning to pressure the US attorney’s office for the eastern district of Michigan to stop the prosecution.

'Now, the truth will finally be told, in open court. Rasmea will be vindicated' - Nesreen Hasan

“At this point [US Attorney] Barbara McQuade can make a decision to drop the charges - to end this charade, to stop wasting taxpayer money,” Abudayyeh told MEE. “So tomorrow, we have a campaign where we’re asking people across the country - and across the world in essence - to call McQuade’s office and demand that she drops the charges against Rasmea now.”

Defence lawyers may have to face prosecution appointed by the Donald Trump administration, but that possibility does not make a major difference in Odeh’s case, according to Abudayyeh.

“I can’t imagine that the prosecution could be more vicious than McQuade’s prosecution was,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of changes in the country, and we’re concerned about a lot of policies that the new president is going to implement. But I don’t think that this ‘Eastern District’ was very kind or very moral to begin with. It can’t get much worse.”

Nesreen Hasan, a social justice activist in Chicago, also welcomed the decision.

“The government has gone to great lengths to cover up the details of Israel’s torture and crimes against this mentor of mine and of so many others, this Palestinian icon,” Hasan said in a statement released by the Defense Committee. “Now, the truth will finally be told, in open court. Rasmea will be vindicated.”

Odeh’s supporters cite her advocacy for women and contributions to the Arab community in Chicago as proof that she is an upstanding citizen who makes a positive impact on society. 

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