In a powerful speech at Paseo Boricua in Chicago on May 18, the Palestinian revolutionary began by saying, “Oscar, I was released after 10 years as a political prisoner in Palestine, two years before you started your sentence, and I know your story very well, because your life is an example to me and to all of us.”
“The Puerto Ricans in this city have always been close to our community. We have faced similar grand jury repression and attacks on our activism,” she continued. “We’ve marched together in dozens of protests for immigrant rights, Palestinian independence, Puerto Rican independence, and other social justice issues.”
Citing similar struggles between the two groups in their respective fights against “the evils of colonialism and U.S. imperialism,” she addressed Lopez Rivera directly, stating, “Oscar, over 6,000 Palestinians are political prisoners in Israeli jails because they fight for what you fight for, self-determination, and an end to colonialism, and full and complete independence.”
“I have faced my own criminalization by the U.S. government, and will have to leave my home here in a few months,” she said. “Wherever I land, I will continue my fight for Palestinian independence, and I will continue to support the independence of Puerto Rico.”
Odeh, who was detained and tortured by Israeli forces for over a decade in the 1970s, is set to be deported from the United States, where she has lived for more than 23 years, after a three-year battle with the United States over alleged “immigration fraud.”
While in an Israeli prison, Odeh suffered immense sexual and physical abuse, as well as both physical and psychological torture at the hands of Israeli authorities.
Odeh, like Lopez Rivera, had participated in armed resistance against colonial forces.
Lopez Rivera was arrested in 1981 by the FBI and charged with “seditious conspiracy" for being a militant, anti-colonial fighter.
During his trial, Lopez Rivera and other members of the Armed Forces of National Liberation told the court their actions were part of an anti-colonial war against the U.S., declaring themselves prisoners of war and requesting that their cases be handed over to an international court.
The U.S. did not recognize Lopez Rivera's demand and sentenced him to 55 years in prison. After an alleged attempt to escape, the sentence was increased to 70 years in prison, 12 of which he spent in solitary confinement.
Lopez Rivera was freed last Wednesday after serving 36 years in jail after former President Barack Obama commuted his sentence earlier this year.