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Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh convicted for immigration fraud

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A prominent Palestinian-American activist faces up to ten years in prison and the loss of her US citizenship after being found guilty of immigration fraud.

Rasmea Odeh, 67, was convicted in a Detroit federal court Monday of gaining US naturalization and citizenship unlawfully.

Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court of involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem bombing. She did not disclose that information on immigration papers, according to federal officials.

But Odeh’s supporters say she confessed to the crime under torture—and US officials were well aware of her background through the immigration process.

Spokesman Hatem Abudayyeh says Odeh even testified about her experience before the United Nations.

“She was a very well-known political prisoner,” Abudayyeh said. “So it’s disingenuous for the United States to then say, 20 years later, that she lied on her application.”

Abudayyeh also said Odeh’s trial was unfair, because Judge Gershwin Drain did not allow the defense to submit any evidence that she had been tortured.

Supporters believe Odeh is a victim of selective prosecution for her activism on behalf of Palestinian and women’s causes.

“This charge…is a pretext for attack on Palestinian leaders and institutions,” said Abudayyeh.

But federal officials say the verdict shows “that the United States will never be a safe haven for individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts, no matter how distant that past might be,” said Marlon Miller, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Detroit.

Drain ordered Odeh, who has lived in the Chicago area for more than 10 years, to be held in federal custody pending sentencing March 10th. Her lawyer has promised to appeal.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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