Defense promises to appeal guilty verdict against Rasmea Odeh

Rasmea Odeh before entering court this morning.

Ali Abunimah

After less than two hours of deliberation, a Detroit federal courthouse jury reached a guilty verdict today in the government’s case against Palestinian American community leader Rasmea Odeh.

The case against Odeh centered on her alleged failure to disclose on her US immigration papers her conviction in an Israeli military court in 1969.

Dozens of supporters of Odeh had driven from Chicago through the night to be at the courthouse today for the announcement of the verdict.

As the jurors read their guilty votes, many of those seated in the gallery dropped their heads to their hands. Prior to bringing the jury into the courtroom, Judge Gershwin Drain had admonished those in the gallery not to make any reaction to the verdict.

The defense intends to file an appeal of the verdict as soon as sentencing is completed several weeks from now.

Judge endorses verdict

After the verdict was read, Judge Drain said, “I don’t normally comment on verdicts, but in this case I will: I think it’s a fair and reasonable one based on the evidence that came in.”

Lead defense attorney Michael Deutsch told The Electronic Intifada that he had never heard a judge comment on a jury’s verdict before. “That’s not his job,” Deutsch remarked. “But it is a window into his whole thinking into this trial.”

After the jury was escorted out, those in the courtroom remained seated in silence. After a few minutes, Odeh turned to those behind her and said solemnly, “Someday we will find fairness, in some place in the world.”

“Jury kept in ignorance”

Judge Drain had told lawyers that the jury was interested in speaking to them after the hearing. However, after Deutsch exited the courthouse, he told the gathering of Odeh’s supporters that the jurors did not wish to speak to the defense at all after they had spoken with the government attorneys for thirty minutes.

“That’s the kind of jury we had: they were kept ignorant of 75 percent of our defense and then they didn’t even want to hear from us at the end,” Deutsch told the crowd over a bullhorn.

Odeh told her supporters, many of whom were in tears, “I don’t want to be weak in this situation. I am strong and I ask you all to be strong.”

Odeh, 67, was granted citizenship in November 2004 after living as a permanent resident in Detroit, Michigan, and later Chicago, Illinois, since 1995. She was indicted last October, when agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested her at her home in the Chicago suburbs.

The government charged Odeh with immigration fraud for failing to disclose her 1969 conviction in an Israeli military court on her visa and naturalization applications. They have argued that had the consular known her record, Odeh would not have been admitted into the US.

Odeh maintains that the conviction for alleged participation in bombings in Jerusalem was false and based on a confession she was forced to sign after 25 days of torture. She was later released from Israeli jail in a prisoner exchange.

Throughout the trial, Odeh’s defense maintained that she had not knowingly provided false answers, and instead believed the questions under scrutiny were only inquiring about her criminal background in the United States.

The defense had initially argued that Odeh suffers from chronic post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the sustained torture she endured during her time in Israeli detention. However, a week before the trial began, Judge Drain ruled that evidence of her torture and PTSD would not be allowed into trial.

“This was not a full or fair trial,” Hatem Abudayyeh told The Electronic Intifada. Abudayyeh is the executive director of the Arab American Action Network, where Odeh serves as associate director, and the spokesperson for the Rasmea Defense Committee. “When the judge made his rulings that the torture and PTSD would not be allowed into trial, while the evidence from the Israeli military court would — this was a travesty of justice,” Abudayyeh added.

Speaking to reporters, Odeh said, “I felt the verdict is not justice, it was a racist verdict.”


Supporters of Odeh have emphasized that the indictment was the result of an investigation of Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists in Chicago and elsewhere in the Midwest that began in 2010. In a pretrial motion, Deutsch had argued for the charges to be dismissed on the grounds that her indictment was a product of “an illegal investigation” into activities protected by the First Amendment.

“The immigration charge is nothing but a pretext for what they were trying to go after: a Palestinian icon and legend who represents the Palestinian movement,” Abudayyeh stated on Monday.

“Palestinian people around the world are doing effective work; we’re getting stronger and stronger and Israel is on the ropes. And when Israel is on the ropes, the US government cracks down,” he added.

During Odeh’s trial last week, supporters filled the courtroom and a spillover room. After each day of the trial, the group would gather outside the courthouse holding up signs reading “Drop the charges against Rasmea.”

Gesturing to the dozens of supporters chanting outside the court, Abudayyeh said, “This is what the Palestinian-American community looks like. They understand this to be a political case … the US attorneys offices in Chicago and Detroit are doing the bidding of Israel in the prosecution of Palestinian Americans.”

Odeh faces up to ten years of imprisonment before being subject to deportation proceedings.

Deutsch told reporters that he believes there are very strong points for appealing the conviction, which Odeh’s attorneys will file after sentencing is concluded.

Update: Odeh taken into custody

The court reconvened this afternoon as Judge Drain heard a motion from the prosecution to revoke the bond on which Odeh had been released after she was arrested on 22 October last year.

Odeh’s attorneys refuted the government attorneys’ assertions that she was a flight risk, arguing that Odeh had opted to go to trial in a bid to remain in the US where she has strong community ties, rejecting a plea deal that would have seen her deported without serving jail time.

But Drain ruled for the prosecution and there were tears and gasps in the courtroom as Odeh was led away. With her head held high, Odeh said, “I am strong.”

Her supporters gathered outside of the court house as their worst fear was realized — returning to Chicago while leaving behind Rasmea Odeh in a Detroit jail.    




A Pakistani friend of mine was denied U.S. citizenship because he misinterpreted the same questions about arrest/conviction. He was arrested during the military government crackdown on dissidents in Pakistan. He appealed and was denied again. On the third try he succeeded.


Keep fighting Rasmea, many are with you both inside and outside the Muslim community. I wish my country would live up to what it says is its values.


Stay strong Rasmea, we in Ireland, support you.


Is there a website for her defense or a place to contribute financially? I think we have to pour as much as we can into defending Rasmea. Any assistance we can give the defense will only help, even if it just means allowing them to hire more researchers, investigators, etc.


Rasmea Odeh has been railroaded by a judge and prosecution eager to do Israel's bidding, and a jury evidently so dazed or intimidated by the proceedings that they requested a formal meeting of reassurance with the prosecution team after performing their assigned trick, while at the same time refusing to speak with the defense.

Drain, it must remembered, was flown in as a replacement for a judge who with the greatest reluctance recused himself from hearing the case because of his known status as a large-scale donor to Israel. The state has gotten its pound of flesh. The accused, a noted civic activist, was denied any right to expose the means by which her original confession was extracted by Israeli torturers and presented to an Israeli military "court" for ratification. Her first trial was a fraud, and it is the US prosecutors, not Rasmea Odeh, who are guilty of presenting lies in order to conceal the truth. She deserves our support as her attorneys prepare their appeal against this rotten verdict, and our admiration for the staunch way in which she has stood up under these terrible assaults on her character and liberty.


Very eloquently stated response to this maddening persecution. It would seem that the US is nothing short of a wholly owned subsidiary of the State of Israel. The fight continues.....


The question is whether she's an American citizen. I don't think a citizen should ever be stripped of their citizenship, ever, unless they revoke it voluntarily.


Once again, the U.S., through this court, is on the wrong side of history. I am sick to death of hearing how we have justice in this country. Nothing could be further from the truth if you happen to be a Palestinian!


Gail, I agree with you, but don't limit your comments to only Palestinians. If you are an African American or anyone of "color" you have never gotten a fair shake from the justice system. America will not fall apart if our citizens start to face the reality of our country and admit we have been WRONG so many, many times.


It's hard to keep being optimistic in the face of such blatant and deliberate oppression. Thank you for adding your voice. Together we can find a path to justice.


Similar injustice was meted out to the Cuban Five and numerous other political prisoners in the U.S. It's a dark judicial time for humans and humanists. But on Palestine at least, the worldwide trend is moving toward justice, and eventually that will be visible even in U.S. courts.


I have followed Rasmea's case. The court's ruling is a travesty of justice and I am shocked to see that she has been thrown in prison while waiting for her appeal. May Rasmea find justice at some time in the future. When it comes to getting equal treatment under the law in the USA being a Palestinian or African American appears to put one in a position of disadvantage.


Ridiculous prejudice Islamophobic US court system. This whole case & trial was an arranged conspiracy against Palestinians as a whole, not just her past information she gave DHS. This was a stupid trial set up by Zionists as a message to those who support Palestine, & that is that they have extreme influence over the American justice system. That's becauase most Americans are dummies & believe the lies of Zionist propaganda.


This trial was indeed political and therefore unconsciable and, in short, very bad for the USA (because perception and branding and standing on the international arena are becoming increasingly important - even if you and your best friends happen to own most of the guns).
But I do believe Ramea Odeh when she says: "I am strong". She is indeed strong, and every day they keep her in jail, and every single injustice and piece of abuse they pile upon her will only make her more of a legend.

Charlotte Silver

Charlotte Silver's picture

Charlotte Silver is an independent journalist and regular writer for The Electronic Intifada. She is based in Oakland, California and has reported from Palestine since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @CharESilver.