Defense Argues Palestinian Organizer’s Indictment Was Product of Illegal FBI Investigation
A motion to dismiss an indictment against Palestinian American Rasmea Odeh for allegedly committing immigration fraud argues Odeh’s indictment was the “product of an illegal investigation into the First Amendment activities of the Arab-American Action Network (AAAN),” a community group based in Chicago.
Rasmea Odeh is an organizer in Chicago. She has been a naturalized citizen in the US since 1995. But, on October 22, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security suddenly had her arrested.
The federal government accused Odeh of neglecting to disclose on naturalization forms that she had been imprisoned by Israelis in Palestine for decades for terrorism-related offenses. She now faces up to ten years in prison if convicted and immediate deportation after her release.
When Odeh was charged, this website covered how her indictment was possibly a result of an FBI investigation into twenty-six activists, who were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury and targeted by the FBI in 2010. Some of those activists had their homes raided and property seized.
Now, Odeh’s defense attorneys—Michael Deutsch, Jim Fennerty and William Goodman—have made the connection and are arguing Odeh would not have been indicted if the government had not been targeting individuals for their First Amendment-protected activities.
A motion [PDF] filed on August 13 argues the indictment was “intended to suppress the work of the defendant in support of the Arab community of Chicago.” It requests that the indictment be “quashed as politically motivated and based on the selective use of the criminal law to target protected political work.”
The defense asks the judge for “discovery of communication between the US Attorney’s Office in Chicago and Detroit” on the decision to indict Odeh, as well as an evidentiary hearing on claims made in the motion. Attorneys believe the evidence will prove allegations and support a dismissal of the indictment.
In January 2010, the FBI and the US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois launched an investigation into AAAN, including Odeh and Hatem Abudayyeh, one of the people who had their homes raided by the FBI in September 2010.
Members of AAAN were allegedly placed under surveillance by the FBI and, the motion adds, “as a result of this investigation the defendant was targeted by the Northern District of Illinois.”
During the same month, Assistant US Attorney Brandon Fox, “initiated a request through the Office of International Affairs” in the Criminal Division of the Justice Department. The request was for records the Israel government had on Odeh.
Israel provided the Justice Department in July 2011 with “several hundred documents purportedly supporting the claim” that Odeh “had been arrested, convicted and imprisoned by the military legal system imposed by Israel in the West Bank.”
At some point, the US Attorney’s Office in Illinois passed Odeh’s case on to the Eastern District of Michigan. Odeh’s attorneys suspect it was to “divert attention” from “failed efforts to criminalize the work of AAAN in Chicago.”
Back in May 2012, something similar happened when the government went after longtime Chicano activist Carlos Montes, who has been active in the antiwar, education and civil rights movements, with bogus charges against him for purchasing a gun.
The allegations involved an event that had happened 43 years ago when he was a student convicted of a misdemeanor for assaulting a police officer during a demonstration. Montes worked with many of the subpoenaed activists when they organized a protest at the Republican National Convention in 2008. The charges the government tried to bring were eventually dropped at trial.
On July 30, US District Court Judge Paul Borman recused himself after having an opportunity to review a copy of the Israeli indictment against Odeh, which contained a count related to the bombing of a supermarket in February 1969.
It accused Odeh and other co-defendants of planning to place “explosives in the hall of the SuperSol in Jerusalem, with the intention of causing death or injury…and/or cause damage to property. One of the bombs exploded and caused the death of Leon Kannar and Edward Jaffe…”
When this happened, Borman’s family had a “passive financial investment” in the supermarket.
Previously, Borman resisted recusing himself, even after Odeh’s defense confronted him with evidence of his ties to the Israeli military and various donations to pro-Israel groups through his own foundation. Gershwin Drain, who was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama, has taken over the case.
Odeh was tortured when she was in Israeli custody. She testified in 1979 before a UN special committee in Geneva on the torture she experienced.
As Josh Ruebner described for The Hill, she was arrested ” from her home in Ramallah in the middle of the night by Israeli soldiers” in 1969. Soldiers beat her without asking any questions. They brought her to an Israeli jail in Jerusalem, where they beat her with sticks, plastic sticks and a metal bar.” They beat her on the head and caused her to faint. They woke her up with cold water, which they threw on her, and then started over again.
Soldiers tried to force her father to rape her. “In her father’s presence,” according to Odeh, “interrogators threatened to ‘violate me’ and ‘tried to introduce a stick to break my maidenhead [hymen].’” And, “Shackled naked from the ceiling, interrogators,” she added, tied her legs, “which were spread-eagled,” and beat her “with their hands and also with cudgels.”
Odeh’s defense is prepared to use evidence of torture to argue she should not be on trial if that becomes necessary. However, first, her attorneys will seek evidence to support arguments that the Justice Department has abused its prosecutorial discretion and has pursued Odeh as part of an illegal investigation.