Judge orders Palestinian American Rasmea Odeh freed on bond

Rasmea Odeh

Ali Abunimah

Supporters of Rasmea Odeh are celebrating a rare piece of good news as a federal judge today granted a motion to release the Palestinian American community leader from jail, pending sentencing.

In the past few days, concern had been mounting for Odeh, 67, who has been held in solitary confinement for more than twelve consecutive days at St. Clair County Jail in Port Huron, about an hour’s drive north of Detroit, Michigan.

She has been held at the local jail ever since her 10 November conviction on immigration fraud charges. Her sentencing is scheduled for 10 March.

William Goodman, Odeh’s Detroit-based attorney, confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that Judge Gershwin Drain had granted a defense motion to reconsider his decision to revoke Odeh’s bond.

Drain set Odeh’s bond at $50,000 in cash, money that will have to be raised and posted before she is released. She will also have to report to a probation officer in Chicago within 24 hours of her release and then every two weeks.

In his ruling, Judge Drain wrote that Odeh’s “dedication to her community work and the people that such work assists, as well as the presence of relatives in Chicago, demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that she is not as significant a flight risk as originally believed.”

Odeh’s immediate detention after her conviction last month surprised her legal team, who had not expected Judge Drain to revoke the bond that had allowed her to stay free since she was charged in October 2013.

The immigration fraud charge against Odeh stems from her failure to disclose in an immigration form a 1969 Israeli military court conviction for alleged involvement in two bombings in Jerusalem. Odeh has always contended that the conviction was forced out of her after weeks of torture and sexual assault in Israeli detention.

The Rasmea Defense Committee welcomed today’s news in a statement that thanked supporters around the country for their “passionate work to help restore her freedom.” It also called for donations toward the bond and Odeh’s legal costs.

“Fantastic news”

The Electronic Intifada’s calls to the St. Clair County Jail to inquire whether Odeh remains in solitary confinement this evening were not returned.

But one sign of the volume of public concern is that the jail set up a special message on its voicemail system regarding Rasmea Odeh that states: “We are well aware of the situation and are looking into it.”

Hatem Abudayyeh, director and Odeh’s colleague at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, told The Electronic Intifada that the judge’s decision is “fantastic news.”

“We look forward to seeing her very soon and continuing the fight to exonerate her,” Abudayyeh said.

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The question remains, what has changed since Judge Gershwin Drain revoked her bond?? NOTHING. Which leads us to, why was she held without bond in the beginning???? Obviously, Drain had an agenda to damage Odeh as much as possible. He knew his decision would not withstand scrutiny and probably thought reversing that decision later would exonerate him, make him seem "reasonable".

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The judge's original rationale for revoking bond was Ms. Odeh's "escape attempt" in 1975 while in the Israeli prison. Does this judge even believe there's any merit in the case against her?

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In view of the apalling disregard of international law and human rights by the Israeli Government during the past decades, the fact that Rasmea Odeh was convicted by an Israeli court is simply irrelevant!

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.