Supporters are mobilizing for Rasmea Odeh on the eve of the Palestinian American community leader’s sentencing.
Odeh, who lives in Chicago, will appear before US District Judge Gershwin Drain in Detroit on Thursday morning to learn her fate.
Odeh is expected to make a statement before the judge and her lawyers hope she will be spared any further jail time for her conviction on immigration fraud charges.
US prosecutors have asked the judge to impose an exceptionally harsh sentence of between five and seven years in prison, to be followed by deportation.
Largest mobilization ever
Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network, and an organizer of the Rasmea Defense Committee, told The Electronic Intifada he expected the largest number of supporters to show up at the federal courthouse since the case began.
He said more than 100 community members were making the five-hour drive from Chicago and dozens more would likely turn out from the Detroit area.
Vigils and rallies in support of Odeh are being held in other cities as well.
Odeh herself will be appearing at an event at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, tonight, which will raise money for her legal defense fund.
Last November, a federal jury found Odeh guilty of immigration and naturalization fraud for failing to disclose her conviction by an Israeli military court in 1969 for helping to organize a series of bombings in Jerusalem.
Odeh has maintained that the 1969 convictions were the result of a false confession extracted through weeks of prolonged torture and sexual assault by Israeli interrogators.
The video above, created by the Detroit hip-hop artist Invincible, calls for support for Odeh and revisits some key moments in the mobilizations around her case since she was first arrested and indicted in October 2013.
Odeh “should be honored”
Ramah Kudaimi, who works for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, wrote in an op-ed for The Arab American News that Odeh had served as an inspiration to her.
“Here is a woman who was sexually tortured by the state of Israel in 1969 for 25 days and forced to confess to planting bombs that killed two people, a confession she later withdrew, but due to the unfairness and bias of the Israeli military justice system, she spent ten years in prison,” Kudaimi writes.
“Here is a woman who rebuilt her life in the United States despite the horrific experiences of her earlier years. She has been recognized by everybody who encountered her for her commitment to women’s rights,” Kudaimi adds. “She is a woman who should be honored as an example of human resilience and the power of personal perseverance.”
Dozens of community members, civic and faith leaders and activists have written to Judge Drain asking him to exercise leniency. Some of the letters have been posted online.
One is from Mariam Obeid, a member of the Arab Women’s Committee founded by Odeh as part of her work with the Arab American Action Network.
Obeid says Odeh had a profound impact on her life. “I never went to school in my life,” Obeid writes, saying that she could not read or write even in Arabic when she came to the United States.
Obeid recounts that for years she was dependent on her father, and then her husband, rarely leaving her house and feeling a constant sense of panic about the outside world.
But after the family moved to Illinois, Obeid met Odeh and enrolled in her program.
“Rasmea changed my life and the lives of hundreds of other women in the community. She pulled me from the darkness to the light, bringing meaning to my life,” Obeid writes.
This, Obeid says, is why “Rasmea is a beloved and respected leader in our community.”
Odeh’s supporters will be hoping that Judge Drain hears that message loud and clear.
- Rasmea Yousef Odeh
- Rasmea Defense Committee
- Hatem Abudayyeh
- Arab American Action Network
- Gershwin A Drain
- political prosecution
- Ramah Kudaimi
- Arab Women's Committee
- Mariam Obeid
- US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
- The Arab American News
- Arab American National Museum