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Palestinian-American activist Rasmea Odeh faces 18 month sentence, deportation

Mar 12, 2015

Supporters of Rasmea Odeh protest outside Detroit's federal courthouse in November.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Detroit sentenced Chicago-area Palestinian-American activist and community leader Rasmea Odeh to 18 months in prison for immigration fraud Thursday.

A jury convicted Odeh, 67, last year of lying on naturalization papers and unlawfully obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Odeh said she had never been convicted of a crime. In fact, an Israeli military court had convicted her of involvement in a 1969 Jerusalem terrorist attack.

But Odeh’s supporters insist that conviction was unlawful. They say she only confessed to that crime under torture, and was later released in a prisoner exchange — something they claim was well-known to U.S. government officials all along.

“The government showed their true colors today, making it clear this case was never about immigration, but rather, the political persecution of a Palestinian hero,” Odeh supporter Frank Chapman, of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Oppression, said in a statement.

Federal officials disagreed. "The United States government is entitled to accurate information about people who are asking permission to enter and stay in the country,” said Detroit U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade in a statement.  “A prior conviction for committing a terrorist bombing is a very significant fact, and failure to disclose this information is a serious fraud against

Federal prosecutors had asked for an unusually harsh 5-7 year sentence with “terrorism enhancements.” But Judge Gershwin Drain sentenced her to 18 months.

Odeh has vowed to appeal her conviction, and was released on bond pending appeal.

If she loses, Odeh will serve her prison sentence, then be stripped of her U.S. citizenship and deported.