Chicago activist ordered deported in immigration case

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — A Chicago Palestinian activist’s U.S. citizenship was revoked and she was ordered deported Thursday by a federal judge for hiding her involvement in two Jerusalem bombings nearly 50 years ago.

Rasmieh Odeh, 70, has admitted that she did not disclose to authorities before she entered into the United States and went through citizenship procedures in 2004 that she was convicted of the two bombings in Israel in 1969.

No date was given for her removal from the U.S.

Odeh was sentenced to 33 days for time served and will be deported to Jordan. She also must pay a $1,000 fine.

Odeh was convicted in 1970 for the bombings, including one that killed two men at a Jerusalem supermarket. She has maintained that she was tortured by the Israeli military into confessing.

The hearing was held before U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain, who repeatedly warned Odeh against making political statements.

“This is the last chance to speak and raise my voice,” Odeh said, gesturing at times with her hands. “I’m not (a) terrorist My people (are) not terrorists.”

Drain threatened her with contempt of court and possible detention.

“You were not found guilty to being a terrorist,” he told Odeh. “You pleaded guilty to making false statements. This is not a political forum for you to fan the flames of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute I’m not ... interested in whether you were a terrorist or not a terrorist.”

Drain also told Odeh: “ All you’re doing is talking about political stuff.... This is not about that. This is about your statements on the (application).”

Odeh said, “People have been right to fight. ... People in the United States struggled against the British for their independence and that is why the 4th of July is celebrated. We Palestinians have struggled for our rights over the years.”

Drain stopped her again, saying, “You’re really testing my patience.”

Odeh also told Drain, “I was unjust and they lock me in the jail. I am not (a) terrorist.”

Odeh was released in 1979 as part of a swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Steve Francis, special agent in charge of immigration and customs enforcement for Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement Thursday: “Today’s court action clears the way for this defendant’s removal from the United States and should serve as an unequivocal message that the U.S. will never be a haven for those seeking to distance themselves from their past atrocities.”

In Chicago, Odeh has been widely known and respected for her work with immigrant Arab women.

About 85 people filled an overflow room and Drain’s courtroom for the hearing. The supporters and others took part in a rally before and after Thursday’s hearing for Odeh.

The Associated Press contributed.

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