Update: US backs down
Supporters of Rasmea Odeh say government prosecutors have backed down from their latest attempt to delay the Palestinian American community leader’s release from jail.
Assisant US Attorney Jonathan Tukel withdrew the government’s motion challenging the source of the $50,000 that will be used to pay Odeh’s bond, according to a statement from the Rasmea Defense Committee, published by the US Palestinian Community Network on Wednesday evening.
The retreat came after US prosecutors deposed – or questioned – the anonymous donor who has put up the money.
According to the statement, the prosecutors asked whether the donor “is actually a friend or only a political supporter” of Odeh, “as well as challenging the donor’s views on Israeli military courts, the decisions of Judge Drain in the case, and the treatment of Palestinians by US federal courts.”
Odeh’s Detroit-based attorney William Goodman “objected to all of these political questions as irrelevant to the proceedings,” the statement says.
“Their actions are nothing but punitive in nature, and their questioning of the donor clearly affirms that their politics and ideology, not the law, govern their work,” Hatem Abudayyeh said in the statement, referring to the prosecutors.
If there are no further surprises, Abudayyeh, a lead organizer in the Rasmea Defense Committee, expects that bond will be posted on Thursday morning, and Odeh could be on her way back to Chicago that afternoon.
Federal prosecutors in Michigan are trying to stop Rasmea Odeh getting out of jail.
On Monday, US District Judge Gershwin Drain granted a defense motion to allow the Palestinian American community leader to go free on bond pending sentencing. This reversed a decision he made to jail her immediately after she was found guilty of immigration fraud in November.
But now prosecutors have raised objections to the source of $50,000 that would be used to pay her bond and get her out of the St. Clair County Jail in Port Huron, about an hour north of Detroit, where she has been held for exactly a month.
The bond will allow Odeh, 67, to return home to Chicago until her 10 March sentencing. The judge’s order requires her to report to a probation officer every two weeks, restricts her travel and prohibits her from obtaining a new passport.
The news of Drain’s decision cheered Odeh’s supporters, who had grown increasingly concerned over reports she had been held in sustained solitary confinement and was receiving inadequate medical attention.
But last night, lead US prosecutor Jonathan Tukel filed a motion with the court questioning the source of the bond money.
Citing the online requests for donations to support the Rasmea Defense Committee on stopFBI.net and US Palestinian Community Network, Tukel asserted that, “It is difficult to see how money raised by large numbers of people creates any incentive for Defendant Odeh to appear. It is likely she would suffer no personal loss by virtue of its forfeiture.”
Following the prosecution’s motion, Drain scheduled a hearing for tomorrow, 11 December, in Detroit.
Hatem Abudayyeh, one of the lead organizers of the Rasmea Defense Committee, said, “The argument from the prosecution is moot.”
Speaking to The Electronic Intifada while en route to Detroit for tomorrow’s hearing, Abudayyeh explained: “We didn’t raise the bond by raising a bunch of one-dollar donations from thousands of people. We raised it with one person, who is a close friend and knows Odeh well. He is posting the entire bond.”
The Chicago-based person is being deposed today about his relationship with Odeh, and his testimony will be presented at tomorrow’s hearing. Odeh will also testify tomorrow.
“She would never flee and force him to lose what is essentially his life savings,” Abudayyeh said.
Abudayyeh is executive director of the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago organization that works with Arab immigrants in the city, where Odeh serves as associate director.
Punishment for exercising due process?
Odeh’s defense has filed a motion for a new trial, citing several grievances with the way November trial was conducted. The prosecution and Drain have used Odeh’s dissatisfaction with the trial and guilty verdict as justification to keep her detained.
Drain wrote in his ruling on Monday, “It is of course not lost on this Court that Defendant’s testimony concerning her escape from prison in Israel suggests her belief that her actions were warranted because her conviction was unjustified. Defendant has expressed a similar feeling concerning her recent conviction for unlawful procurement of naturalization.”
Odeh’s conviction stems from her failure to disclose in an immigration form her 1969 conviction in an Israeli military court for a role in two bombings. Odeh has consistently stated that the conviction was based on a confession Israeli interrogators extracted through prolonged torture and sexual assault.