[Pnews] Defense opens with scathing indictment of Israel; cross examination exposes holes in prosecution of Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 5 20:06:28 EST 2014
*Rasmea Defense Committee Statement*
*Trial Day 2: Defense opens with scathing indictment of Israel; cross
examination exposes holes in prosecution of Palestinian American
activist Rasmea Odeh*
Opening statements were made today in the trial of Rasmea Odeh, beloved
leader of Chicago’s Palestinian community, and the first witnesses for
the prosecution were called to the stand. Again, supporters from across
the Midwest packed the courtroom, with many filing into an overflow room.
Assistant US Attorney Mark Jebson opened for the prosecution, laying out
the government’s case. According to him, Rasmea should be found guilty
of immigration fraud for her failure to disclose the 1970 conviction by
Israel. Lead defense attorney, Michael Deutsch, hit back hard with an
opening statement that began, “Odeh was convicted by a military court
that was occupying Palestinian land. [With] judges who are
soldiers...Rasmea Odeh embodies the history of the Palestinian people.”
He continued by tracing her story, from the 1948 loss of the family home
and land to Israeli soldiers and settlers when she was just a year old,
to additional personal losses in the 1967 war, to 1969, when Rasmea was
one of 500 people arrested by the Israeli military in a massive,
indiscriminate sweep. Though he was barred by the judge’s rulings from
mentioning torture, he told the jury that after her arrest, Rasmea was
interrogated for weeks. “Use your imagination about what ‘interrogation
for weeks’ means.” The prosecution quickly objected and Judge Drain
sustained the objection.
Deutsch added, “Rasmea is respected, honored, and revered. You will see
her honesty and integrity when she testifies. In 2004, she applied; in
2013, they suddenly charged her. Ask yourself why. Ask yourself why they
are bringing this case nine years later.” Again, the prosecution
objected, and again Judge Drain sustained.
In the end, Deutsch urged the jury to remain independent, “use your
sense of justice, and find [Rasmea] not guilty.”
After a short break, the prosecution called its first witness,
Department of Homeland Security special agent Stephen Webber.He
testified to initiating and leading the investigation against Rasmea
since 2010.The clearly rehearsed testimony quickly changed, however,
when Deutsch began his cross-examination. A previously calm and relaxed
Webber began to sweat and shift nervously in his seat as Deutsch had him
admit that he had worked with the prosecution to build the case against
Rasmea, including traveling to O’Hare Airport to secretly record an
interrogation of her as she returned to the U.S. from Palestine.
A record of the interview reveals that Webber lied to Rasmea, and
claimed he was questioning her because he had a genuine interest in
learning more about the conflict between Palestine and Israel.In
reality, he was trying to entrap her, repeatedly asking whether she had
been imprisoned in Israel, to which she replied more than once, “No,
please, I don’t want to talk about it.”
Two additional witnesses gave testimony after Webber. Raymond Clore, a
State Department functionary, and Douglas Scott Pierce of the US
Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), both spoke in general terms
about the immigration and citizenship application process. In
cross-examination, Deutsch weakened the case against Rasmea—pointing out
that her initial immigration application did not include a sworn
statement with Rasmea’s signature, and that standard USCIS procedures
only investigate an applicant’s criminal record inside the United States.
At several points during the questioning, Deutsch emphasized that the
questions on the applications that Rasmea filed do not directly ask
about crimes outside the United States. And after dismissing the jury
for the day, Judge Drain denied yet another defense motion, which sought
to introduce an earlier version of the application. That early 90s
naturalization form explicitly asks “inside or outside the US” when
attempting to assess if someone had ever been arrested, convicted, or
The defense confirmed that Rasmea will be called to testify on her own
behalf after the prosecution closes its case. This could be as early as
Thursday afternoon, and promises to be powerful.Dozens of additional
supporters plan to be in Detroit to hear her tell her story to the jury.
The Rasmea Defense Committee has organized people from across the
Midwest to pack the courtroom throughout the trial, and more are still
pouring in. Each day of the trial, supporters will rally from 8-8:15
a.m. and again after adjournment at 1 p.m. For more information and
background on Rasmea Odeh’s case, go tohttp://www.uspcn.org,
Dozens travel to Detroit to support Rasmea Odeh as trial begins
Submitted by Charlotte Silver on Wed, 11/05/2014 - 04:18
The trial of Rasmea Odeh
<http://electronicintifada.net/tags/rasmea-yousef-odeh> began today, 4
November, at the US District Court of the Eastern District of Detroit,
Michigan. Though the attorneys were prepared to give their opening
statements, the day came to an end just as the jury selection was completed.
Rasmea Yousef Odeh (Arab American Action Network)
Odeh, 67, was indicted with unlawful procurement of naturalization last
October. The US attorney’s office of the Eastern District of Michigan
alleges that nine years ago, Odeh knowingly answered several questions
falsely on her application for naturalization that inquired about her
In 1969, Odeh was arrested in the middle of the night by Israeli
soldiers, who immediately began to brutally torture her for the next 25
days until she eventually signed a confession stating that she
participated in two bombings in Jerusalem. Even after she signed the
confession, her interrogators continued to sadistically torture her,
including raping her with a wooden stick.
Even though Odeh quickly recanted the confession, the Israeli military
court convicted her under terrorism charges and sentenced Odeh to life
in prison. She was released ten years later in a 1979 prisoner exchange.
Odeh immigrated to the United States in 1995 and became US citizen in
2004, yet the US government now wants to deport her and strip her of her
citizenship for failing to disclose her criminal conviction by an
Israeli military court. If she is convicted, Odeh will most certainly be
sentenced to time in prison and deportation.
Before the pool of sixty potential jurors were allowed to enter Judge
Gershwin Drain’s courtroom, the defense and prosecution teams conferred
on a few last-minute decisions.
On 3 November, Odeh’s lead defense lawyer, Michael Deutsch, submitted a
last minute motion for Judge Drain to reconsider what Deutsch called an
“unconstitutionally restrictive ruling on the defendant’s Fifth and
Sixth Amendment right to testify in her own behalf.”
In a ruling published on 27 October, Judge Drain denied several motions
of the defense, including denying Odeh the ability to present evidence
of being tortured or call an expert witness to testify to her probable
state of mind when she filled out her application for naturalization.
Deutsch argued that by denying Odeh the ability to testify to the
torture she experienced at the hands of Israeli soldiers and security
forces in 1969, she will be unable to testify “freely, fully and fairly
on her own behalf.”
Because Odeh is being charged with “knowingly” providing false answers,
“the crime is thus based entirely on the defendant’s state of mind,”
“Thus … to preclude her from testifying about everything that comprised
her state of mind at the time she is accused of making false answers,
would unfairly and erroneously limit her fundamental constitutional
right to testify in her own defense.”
But Drain ruled against the motion, repeating what he argued in his
ruling last week.
Drain said that what was relevant was her state of mind at the time of
the offense — filling out the application in 2004 — and not when she was
tortured. Drain’s statement indicates a misunderstanding of what the
defense wished to argue: that Odeh’s post traumatic stress disorder as a
result of the torture influenced how she filled out the application, as
Mary Fabri, a clinical psychologist and expert on torture, wrote in her
affidavit to the court
“The jury is going to get evidence and documents that state her
conviction and we can’t go behind that, giving us a minimal chance to
get a fair trial,” Deutsch contested in court.
“We can’t testify to the circumstances that led to her filling out her
application in 2004, and we can’t challenge the military court.”
For its part, the prosecution sought to have stricken from evidence all
documentation of Odeh’s accomplishments in the US, including training as
a domestic violence counselor, an award for Outstanding Community
Leadership from the Chicago Cultural Alliance and other certificates of
education and training. However, the judge allowed them to remain as a
testament to Odeh’s credibility, honesty and integrity.
Furthermore, longtime civil rights attorney Dennis Cunningham has joined
Michael Deutsch, Jim Fennerty and William Goodwin, who have been
representing Odeh for the last five months. Cunningham has noted
experience representing victims of political prosecutions, including
renowned environmental activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.
Before selecting the jury of twelve and two alternates, Judge Drain
asked a series of /voir dire/ questions that probed jurors’ potential
bias for or against law enforcement, government prosecutors, Muslims,
Palestinians and immigrants. The questions asked by Judge Drain were
pared down from two lengthy sets of questions proposed by the
prosecution and defense.
All jurors who were dismissed for prejudice — a total of eleven — were
done so after they admitted that they could not judge the defendant
fairly knowing that she was convicted of a bombing. It is important to
note that jurors will see Odeh’s signed confession and the documentation
of her conviction, yet not know that she was tortured for 25 days before
While the defense had requested several questions about jurors’
attitudes towards Israel and the so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
the judge did not mention Israel once.
At the end of session, Deutsch registered with the court his
disappointment that there was no opportunity to discern this potentially
significant prejudice among jurors.
Drain defended his decision by saying, “I don’t think getting into the
details of the controversy back when she was convicted is relevant to
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada after court was adjourned,
Cunningham said: “This case arose from the Six Day War [1967 war] and
the roundups that took place after it, and [Drain] didn’t ask a single
question about Israel.”
“He said it was too long ago, but it’s not. It’s right now — whether
it’s what is happening in Gaza or it’s what [Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin] Netanyahu is saying. It seems illogical to say that it’s too
Before the selected jurors were dismissed, the judge explained to them
that a US marshal would tell them where to park every day. From there,
they would be driven by a US marshal to the courthouse and enter through
the basement. Drain explained that the unusual precaution was to help
jurors avoid any encounters with the media.
In fact, the prosecutors had requested that jurors arrive through a
separate entrance so as to not see the large amount of support Rasmea
Mobilizing in Detroit
While none of Odeh’s supporters were evident in Drain’s courtroom,
around 90 activists from Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis and Milwaukee
filled a larger courtroom upstairs, where they watched the proceedings
on large television screens.
The Rasmea Defense Committee — which is composed primarily of people
from the United States Palestinian Community Network <http://uspcn.org/>
and the Committee to Stop FBI Repression <http://www.stopfbi.net/>— have
had three of their organizers based in Detroit since 21 October.
Since focusing their mobilizing energy in Detroit, the Rasmea Defense
Committee has teamed up with CAIR-Michigan and Students for Justice in
Palestine chapters at Wayne State University, the University of
Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Local
chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace, the National Lawyers Guild, MECAWI
(Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice) and the
Ramallah and Beit Hanina Clubs in Detroit.
Hatem Abudayyeh, the spokesperson for the Rasmea Defense Committee as
well as the Executive Director of the Arab American Action Network, told
The Electronic Intifada that “It’s been a logistical nightmare to uproot
an entire base of supporters from Chicago and bring them to Detroit, and
it’s incredible that we’ve been able to do it so effectively.”
Odeh’s supporters have speculated that she was prosecuted in Detroit and
not Chicago, where she lives, in order to create an obstacle to
Since pre-trial hearings began a year ago, the Committee has been
organizing caravans of supporters from Chicago to the Detroit
courthouse. A bus carrying more than fifty supporters from Chicago drove
into Detroit on Monday night.
Since last November, the Committee has brought out at least fifty
persons to each pre-trial hearing. “There were 90 people in the
courtroom today and we expect to fill it for the week. it’s a massive
operation,” Abudayyeh noted.
He admitted that “the challenges have been massive,” but he also
emphasized the enormous success their campaign has had albeit outside
“We have turned this case into Israel being on trial, its military
courts, its colonization and torture, its apartheid policies and
treatment of Palestinian prisoners. We did run into a big disappointment
on 27 October [the day of Drain’s last ruling]… but we’ve won outside of
court already, and now we’re just hoping to win on Friday.”
The trial is expected to last through the end of this week. The defense
has yet to decide if Odeh will testify.
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