Video above: Over 60 leading Black and Palestinian artists and activists affirm Black-Palestinian solidarity, including Ms. Lauryn Hill, Danny Glover, DAM, Omar Barghouti, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Yousef Erakat, Annemarie Jacir, Boots Riley, Dr. Cornel West, and many others.
After 6th Circuit Court vacates Odeh’s sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain orders evidentiary hearing Nov. 29, likely re-trial in Jan.
Odeh tortured, raped by Israeli occupation forces in 1969, now charged with “false statements” in naturalization application
Defense expert to testify regarding PTSD effects on memory of torture survivors
Odeh’s arrest result of general FBI sweep of pro-Palestinian activists’ homes in Chicago and Minneapolis
By Diane Bukowski
June 18, 2016
DETROIT – Carrying banners declaring “We demand #JUSTICE4RASMEA,” and “From Ferguson to Palestine, Occupation is a Crime,” over 100 protesters from across the U.S. rallied for two hours outside the Fort Street federal courthouse in Detroit June 13.
Inside, U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain, after hearing arguments in chambers, ordered a Nov. 29, 2016 evidentiary hearing and a possible re-trial Jan. 10, 2017 for Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh, 68, convicted earlier of making “false statements” on her naturalization application that she had never been convicted of a crime.
Odeh was repeatedly tortured and raped by the Israeli military for three weeks during its 1969-70 invasion and subsequent occupation of Gaza, condemned world-wide. The Israelis imprisoned her for allegedly bombing an supermarket in Jerusalem. She has said that any confession she made was elicited by torture.
“As a Black woman who has lived in an oppressed community for over half a century, and as a rape survivor, I say the Black community and Detroiters need to stand up for Rasmea,” activist-poet Tawanna “Honeycomb” Petty said during the rally.
“Here in Detroit, Black women and families are evicted and kicked out of their homes like in Palestine. Our right to water is under attack in both places. Systems of incarceration are used to police and repress our communities. It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.”
On Feb. 25 this year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati vacated Odeh’s Nov. 14, 2015 jury conviction. It remanded her case to Drain, who had sentenced her to 18 months in prison and deportation.
Drain said at the time, “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.”
But the Sixth Circuit disagreed, ordering Drain to allow testimony he had barred from Mary Fabri, an expert on post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) in torture survivors. Drain also barred Odeh herself from testifying about her treatment by the Israeli soldiers.
The joint ruling from Sixth Circuit Judges John Rogers, Alice Batchelder and Karen Moore focused on allowing Fabri’s testimony, and specifically said the court was not ordering a new trial. But Batchelder said in partial dissent that she would have ordered a new trial.
Batchelder wrote, “ . . . proving that Odeh lied under oath, and even that that lie was ‘material,’ would not require evidence that she was charged with ‘plac[ing] explosives in the hall of the SuperSol in Jerusalem . . .with the intent of causing death or injury.’ The risk of unfair prejudice from this evidence was enormous, especially since Odeh was not permitted to testify at trial about her claims of torture. The word ‘terrorist’ may never have been uttered before the jury, but it was doubtless in the minds of everyone present.”
The other woman judge on the appeals panel, Karen Moore, additionally wrote that Drain’s decision to admit aspects of the military tribunal indictment was, “although harmless error. . . an abuse of discretion.” She said those aspects included the names of the two people who died in the bombing, along with the prayer, “May Their Memories be a Blessing.”
“The names and prayer give color and texture to the bombing, so that it becomes more real and difficult to separate from the instant offense,” Moore wrote. “They provide exactly the kind of detail likely to provide a visceral reaction.”
The crowd rallying outside greeted Odeh and her legal defense team, including attorney Michael Deutsch, with rousing cheers as they left the courthouse. Deutsch has in the past represented members of the Black Panther Party and the Puerto Rican independence movement. For the past 10 years, Odeh has helped Arab-American women in Chicago through her social work, and has supported the struggles of many other groups, including those protesting dozens of murders by police in Chicago.
Deutsch said the Nov. 29 hearing will determine whether Odeh herself can testify in addition to Fabri, and whether there will be a new trial. He said the prosecution insisted on the hearing, where it plans to challenge inclusion of the previously barred testimony as well as a new trial.
“We haven’t reached the question of how broadly [Odeh] can testify at any new trial,” Deutsch said. “My reading of the judge is that he seems to be leaning to letting the expert testify.”
During the trial, Judge Drain originally granted the defense’s request to have Fabri testify, then reversed his decision.
Deutsch said Drain took under consideration the defense’s request to ease requirements that Odeh report every week to Pre-Trial Services in Chicago, and not travel. However the judge did not rule.
Those rallying on Odeh’s behalf came from Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Dearborn, Grand Rapids, and Ann Arbor, among other places. Two protesters even traveled from Texas. They represented Black and Filipino community organizations in various cities along with Black Lives Matter and other anti-police brutality organizations.
Professor Angela Davis, esteemed world-wide as a hero of the Black liberation movement in the U.S., wrote an op-ed supporting Rasmea, published in the Detroit News and other media across the country.
“Only now, when the Chicago activist community has effectively raised awareness of Israel’s apartheid system and its violation of international laws, have immigration authorities decided to challenge [Odeh’s] status as a citizen,” Davis said. “In light of the success of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign, this case reeks of political payback.”
Hatem Abudayyeh of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), acting as national spokesperson for the Rasmea Defense Committee, earlier filled VOD in on the background of Rasmea’s arrest by immigration officials. He now lives in Detroit, having moved from Chicago. The USPCN along with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR), anchor Odeh’s defense committee.
“We cannot win Rasmea’s case only in court, but by mobilizing political support,” Abudayyeh said. “For 40-50 years in the U.S., Palestinians have said our struggle is the Black community’s struggle, and done decades of organizing work. In Sept. 2010, the FBI conducted raids in five households in Chicago and Minneapolis, arresting people who became known as ‘the Midwest 23.’ They came after Rasmea in particular, as a representative of our liberation movement.”
Abudayyeh continued, “There are 7,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli jails, and now they are trying to criminalize our movement here. We have to fight back by any means necessary. There is nothing criminal about our movement.
“U.S. Prosecutor Jonathan Turkel [now removed from Odeh’s case], took advantage of the publicity about ISIS. He is not going to say anything about the huge role the U.S. played to bring about the rise of that group. For him to compare Rasmea and Palestinians with ISIS and Al-Quaeda is nothing but fear-mongering and scapegoating. But we believe there has been a shift in this country in support of Palestinian rights.”
Abudayyeh compared the U.S. government’s attack on pro-Palestinian organizers with COINTELPRO, the FBI-led campaign to kill, imprison, and discredit leaders of the Black Panther Party and other Black liberation groups.
“Israel is the most important ally of the U.S.,” Abudayyeh said. “It is a stronghold for U.S. interests in Palestine and the Arab world. The U.S. wants it to be that white racist settlement.”
Frank Chapman, an organizer with the Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression, also spoke during the rally.
“We are in the midst of a huge fight against police crimes in the Black community,” Chapman said. “But the people who rule our country are in a world of trouble. People are out in the streets on an almost daily basis fighting back.”
Narissa Allegretti, of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, said, “This is about all of us. It is not about immigration, it is about repression. We are all Rasmea.”
Other speakers included representatives of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, Black Youth 100, the Cincinnati Palestine Solidarity Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for Justice in Palestine from Loyola University, as well as other organizers of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment campaign from various colleges.
The Rasmea Defense Committee can be contacted through Hatem Abudayyah, at 773-301-4108, and firstname.lastname@example.org.
#Justice4Rasmea, #FreePalestineNow, #BlackLivesMatter, #BlackLivesMatterDetroit, #Beatbackthebullies, #StandUpNow, #StopRacistWaronArabImmigrants, #StopICEraids, #StopDHSattacks, #EndRacismNow, #Justice4AiyanaJones, #Justice4TerranceKellom, #Justice4Kevin Matthews, #Justice4JanetWilson. #StopUSImperialistWars