Palestinian activist Rasmieh Yousef Odeh .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Pro-Palestinian organizations in the US launched a campaign on Wednesday to pressure a federal appeals court to acquit Rasmea Odeh, a Palestinian-American who was convicted in Israel in 1970 of perpetrating a terrorist attack, of immigration fraud in the US.
In November 2014, a Detroit federal jury convicted Odeh of concealing her life imprisonment in Israel, and in March she was sentenced to serve 18 months in prison out of a potential maximum of 10 years, the canceling of her US citizenship and deportation to Jordan.
In 1970, an Israeli military court convicted Odeh of an attack that killed two people – Hebrew University students and roommates Leon “Arie” Kanner, 21, from Netanya, and Edward Joffe, 22, formerly of Cape Town and living near Tel Aviv – at the SuperSol supermarket on Agron Street in Jerusalem in 1969, and sentenced her to a life term.
Odeh served 10 years of that sentence, before getting an early release in 1980, in a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The campaign launched on Wednesday with a “Social Media Day of Action” and the Hashtag “Justice4Rasmea,” aims at exerting pressure on the federal appeals court to accept her appeal and toss out the conviction and sentencing so that she can remain in the US.
A hearing on her appeal was held in October and the campaign website said a decision is expected in the coming month or within up to about four months.
Public rallies in support of Odeh are expected to take place outside federal buildings in various cities in the US. On Monday, dozens of activists gathered outside a federal building in Los Angeles carrying banners with the slogan: “Free Rasema, Free Palestine.”
The campaign for Odeh’s release also said it has attracted African-American activists, such as Angela Davis.
Odeh’s supporters claim that her original trial in Israel was marked with “bias and inconsistencies,” and that Odeh confessed her involvement in terrorism only after she was tortured by security authorities.
While she used this argument during her US trial, the court refused to allow her to make the claim since the issue before it was solely the factual question of whether she had been convicted and lied about it, not whether the conviction was just.
The website for the campaign does not mention Odeh’s conviction for murder on its front page, and only mentions it several paragraphs down on one of the website’s side pages, focusing far more on the torture allegations.
Odeh has lived almost two decades in the United States and served as associate director of a Chicago-area community organization called the Arab American Action Network.
Federal prosecutors said she failed to reveal her criminal history when she immigrated to the US from Jordan in 1995, and again when she was naturalized as a US citizen in 2004.
Odeh and members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were convicted by an Israeli military court for the supermarket bombing and for placing a bomb at the British Consulate in Jerusalem.Reuters contributed to this report.