On 13 June, Rasmea Odeh – former Palestinian political prisoner, torture survivor, and Palestinian community leader – will have a status hearing in chambers in Detroit before Judge Gershwin Drain. This hearing is the first after Odeh and her lawyers won a victory in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, sending her case back to trial after her conviction on immigration charges stemming from her imprisonment and torture by Israeli occupation forces beginning in 1969. Protests are taking place in multiple cities beginning today, 10 June, in New York City, to support Odeh’s struggle for justice.
Odeh was convicted of unlawful procurement of naturalization, based on not disclosing her time as a Palestinian political prisoner in Israeli jails to US immigration officials. Judge Drain prohibited Rasmea not only from discussing her sexual, physical and psychological torture in court, but from admitting any evidence, including expert testimony, that she suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She was convicted and sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment and deportation. Rasmea and her legal team appealed immediately – and the appeals court ruled that it was an error to exclude the PTSD evidence from the jury – which means that Rasmea now has a strong path for a new trial.
Odeh has received support from across the United States and around the world since her arrest. The Rasmea Defense Committee, including the Coalition to Stop FBI Repression and the US Palestinian Community Network and many other organizations, has organized legally and politically to support Rasmea’s case. She is currently free, living and working in Chicago while the appeal is pending.
Supporters of Rasmea are organizing protests, actions and events to support Rasmea, while the Rasmea Defense Committee is organizing for the rally in Detroit. In New York, a large coalition of groups, including Al-Awda New York: The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, American Muslims for Palestine, the Committee to Stop FBI Repression NYC, the International Action Center, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, Labor for Palestine, New York City Students for Justice in Palestine, NY4Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Alliance of Hunter College, Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, and the US Palestinian Community Network, will protest on 10 June. The protest will begin at G4S Secure Solutions (a contractor with Israeli prisons), 19 West 44th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, followed by a march to the US Armed Forces recruiting station (part of the Defense Department which provides Israel with US military aid), 200 West 43rd Street at Broadway. Protests are also planned for Tampa and Detroit, outside the closed hearing.
“The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Gershwin Drain wrongfully barred the testimony of a torture expert that was critical to Rasmea’s defense,” said Suzanne Adely, an attorney and member of the US Palestinian Community Network. “During her trial, Rasmea was not allowed to tell her story of arrest, torture and forced confession in 1969. If Judge Drain cannot determine new legal avenues to exclude the expert testimony, Rasmea will be granted a new trial. It was recently announced that this status hearing will take place in chambers and not in open court, but Rasmea’s supporters will still be outside the courthouse on June 13.”
“We’re going all out in Detroit for Rasmea because solidarity is the strongest way to support people who are being attacked by the state,” said Michela Martinazzi, a member of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression NYC. “For those who can’t go, rallies and events show that Rasmea is supported nationally and has a whole movement of people behind her. Rasmea is not facing the state alone, but has hundreds, from New York to Tampa, rallying for justice.”