Palestinian Activist Wants Charges Dismissed
(CN) - A Palestinian activist asked a federal judge to dismiss the indictment against her for allegedly lying on immigration forms 20 years ago about past convictions for setting bombs in Jerusalem - convictions she has long claimed were the result of Israeli torture.
Rasmea Odeh, a leader of Chicago's Palestinian community, was arrested last year. The government claims that Odeh never mentioned that she was arrested and convicted by an Israeli military court 45 years ago of participating in three bombings in Israel, one of which killed two people.
However, Odeh has maintained for decades that she never committed the crimes. In 1971 she testified before the U.N. that the Israeli military tortured her to confess to the bombings. Interrogators allegedly attempted to force her father to have sex with her, and beat her while she was shackled naked, legs spread-eagled, to the ceiling, the Hill reported.
"Rasmea is facing up to ten years in jail and deportation. She is a Palestinian who has stood up for the Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities of Chicagoland, and to end the occupation of Palestine as well. Rasmea suffered vicious torture and sexual abuse in Israeli prisons, and the U.S. government is trying to victimize her again," Hatem Abudayyeh of the national Rasmea Defense Committee said in a press release.
Odeh asked U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain to dismiss the indictment, arguing that "it is the product of an illegal investigation into the First Amendment activities of the Arab-American Action Network (AAAN) and intended to suppress the work of the defendant in support of the Arab community of Chicago," the motion says.
In 2010, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) raided the home of AAAN Executive Director Hatem Abudayyeh, and six other activists. A grand jury did not return any indictments related to the investigation.
Following these raids, the FBI allegedly asked Israel to provide documents showing that Odeh had been arrested and imprisoned in the West Bank before emigrating to the U.S.
"Interestingly, the indictment was obtained by the office of the U.S. Attorney's office from the Eastern District of Michigan through a grand jury sitting in the Eastern District of Michigan," the motion says. "The U.S. Attorney in Illinois, which was the office that initiated the request for the Israeli documents and was carrying out the investigation, apparently passed the case to the office in Michigan, to divert attention from its failed efforts to criminalize the work of the AAAN in Chicago.
The motion continues, "Ms. Odeh's indictment is the product of an illegal investigation into the First Amendment activities of the AAAN, and should be quashed as politically motivated and based on the selective use of the criminal law to target protected political work."
In a response filed Thursday, the government stated that Odeh "has failed to acknowledge, let alone meet the high burden of making out a prima case of selective prosecution, or the lesser but still significant burden applicable to requests for discovery in support of such a claim."
Prosecutors also cited change of venue as a reason to dismiss Odeh's claims, because her "allegations of retaliation and discrimination all are directed at the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois" - not against the U.S. Attorney's Office in Eastern Michigan.
Odeh is represented by Michael Deutsch with the People's Law Office in Chicago.