Note: This report includes graphic details of torture that some may find disturbing
In what is expected to be a crucial pre-trial hearing for Rasmea Yousef Odeh, prosecution and defense attorneys will convene in US district court in Detroit, Michigan on 31 July to argue several motions that could have significant bearing on how the trial, scheduled to begin in September, proceeds.
Odeh is a Palestinian American accused of “immigration fraud” for allegedly falsely answering “no” to the question on an immigration application as to whether she had ever been convicted of a crime.
An Israeli military court convicted Odeh in 1969 of participating in two bombings in Jerusalem, a conviction based on a confession Odeh says was obtained through torture including rape.
Odeh has pleaded not guilty to the immigration fraud charge. If convicted she faces up to ten years imprisonment, $250,000 in fines, loss of her US citizenship and deportation.
Among the motions to be heard is one asking the trial judge Paul D. Borman to recuse himself from the case, citing his substantial financial support for explicitly pro-Israel organizations and activities as evidence he cannot be impartial.
Defense attorneys filed that motion on 14 July and on 30 July submitted additional evidence including the fact that Borman has donated thousands of dollars to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, as well as to Near East Report, a publication of the Israel lobby group AIPAC, through his philanthropic foundation The Borman Fund.
The judge will also consider a defense motion to bar any reference during the trial to Odeh’s 1969 arrest, conviction and imprisonment because all were conducted by the Israeli military occupation regime, whose policies are inconsistent with United States due process and the fundamental fairness afforded by international law.
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada, Hatem Abudayyeh, executive director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), said, “It would be prejudicial if the government was able to submit the conviction from Israel or evidence from the crime Rasmea is alleged to have participated in. Rasmea and her attorneys are rejecting that conviction and calling it an unlawful one, as it was obtained through torture.”
Odeh is associate director of AAAN.
Beaten, electrocuted and raped
In another motion that may also be heard on Thursday, the defense submits evidence of the extensive torture Odeh endured during her ten years in Israeli prison. Odeh’s defense may argue that the torture she suffered led to diminished capacity at the time of her US immigration and naturalization application.
Clinical psychologist Mary Fabri submitted an affidavit on 18 July detailing Odeh’s torture and subsequent post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Fabri has an extensive background in treating victims of torture. She served on the Executive Committee for the National Consortium of Torture Treatment Programs for eight years.
In her affidavit to the court, Fabri describes with excruciating detail what Odeh recounted in their sessions.
When Odeh, aged 19 at the time, was first arrested by Israeli soldiers in 1969, she was taken to an interrogation center in Jerusalem where she was beaten with wooden sticks, metal bars, open hands and fists, and kicked with booted feet. Odeh described the sensation she had after the prolonged beating, saying it was “like there was a fire in my head, like high electricity voltage, like my head was going to explode.”
For the first week of her detention, Odeh was menstruating and the Israeli guards did not give her any sanitary protection or allow her access to the bathroom. She reported that for the first 25 days of her 45 days in detention in Jerusalem, Odeh was denied regular sleep and was continually beaten and humiliated.
One guard, known as “Abulhani,” punched her repeatedly on her ears, resulting in impaired hearing for two years.
Odeh was left naked for most of the time, in front of male guards as well as other detained men.
At one point, Odeh was forced to watch the torture of a detained man, during which the guards connected the man’s genitals to electrical wires and subjected him to electric shocks. Odeh reported that she watched him die during this torture.
Shortly after witnessing the electrocution, Odeh was herself tortured with electric shocks; the wires were attached to her genitals, breasts, abdomen, arms and legs.
In yet another incident, Odeh’s father was brought into a room where she was lying naked on the floor, and ordered to have sex with her. It was this threat that Odeh says finally coerced her to signing a confession.
But, according to Fabri’s affidavit, even after Odeh signed the confession, the torture did not stop.
The guard, “Abulhani,” threatened to rape her but then told her that “she did not deserve to have a man take her virginity.” Soldiers then held her down and “Abulhani” shoved a “rough, thick, wooden stick” into her vagina. Odeh later learned that her father was forced to watch her rape.
Observing “no evidence of feigning or malingering,” Fabri concluded that Odeh’s symptoms and descriptions of her symptoms were consistent with PTSD, and that any call to remember the torture would have reactivated the symptoms of PTSD, and thus she, like others suffering from extreme trauma, would likely avoid thinking or talking about the experience.
Organizers of The National Rasmea Defense Committee are asking supporters to rally outside the Detroit courthouse 31 July at 1pm Eastern Time.