Detroit: A Palestinian-born activist who spent ten years in an Israeli prison on a terrorism conviction before moving to the US and gaining citizenship pleaded guilty on Tuesday, April 25, to immigration fraud, agreeing to be deported rather than sent to prison.
Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 69, is scheduled to be sentenced on August 17 and subsequently stripped of her US citizenship and expelled from the country.
Odeh, who once served as the associate director for the Arab American Action Network in Chicago and was involved last month in organising rallies opposing President Donald Trump’s policies, said she did not know yet where she would go. Her attorney told US district judge Gershwin Drain that Jordan had agreed to take her in.
“This is very unjust, very wrong,” Odeh muttered, wiping tears and embracing dozens of supporters as she left the courtroom. “That they can just send you away from this country after 24 years that I’ve been living here, it is wrong.”
The case revolves around the 10 years Odeh spent in an Israeli prison, after confessing to taking part in a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine 1969 supermarket bombing in Israel that killed two people, as well as a plot to bomb the British Consulate in Jerusalem.
Odeh had said her confession to the bombing was the result of torture by the Israeli military, including rape and electric shocks. She was released as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinians.
Federal prosecutors said she broke US law when she failed to reveal her criminal history when she immigrated from Jordan in 1995 and again when she was naturalised as a US citizen in 2004.
She was convicted in November 2014 of unlawful procurement of naturalization. That conviction, which brought with it an 18-month prison term and deportation, was vacated by the 6th US circuit court of appeals in February 2016.
The appeals court said Drain had wrongly denied Odeh the chance to present evidence at trial that she did not disclose her Israeli prison term because she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Even with the lengthy negotiations that yielded Tuesday’s deal, Odeh had a difficult time verbally stating her guilt, initially saying only: “I signed the agreement.”
Drain eventually accepted as her guilty plea the words: “The agreement says I am guilty and I signed it.”