Palestinian justice activist Rasmea Odeh will appear before a U.S. appeal court Wednesday to challenge a controversial court sentence punishing her to jail time and eventual deportation.
Odeh’s appeal will argue that she faced an unfair trial last November when she was handed down a sentence of 18 months in prison, US$1,000 in fines, revocation of citizenship and deportation to Jordan.
The court found the 67-year-old Palestinian native guilty of lying on her immigration and naturalization applications 20 years ago after failing to disclose that she was convicted by an Israeli military court for participating in the bombings of 1969.
According to Odeh, she did not lie but rather could not recollect the conviction due to post-traumatic stress disorder caused by t10 years of abuse and torture in Israeli prison.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain, however, did not allow Odeh to speak on these traumatic events and barred an expert witness who could confirm the disorder to stand in trial.
“Without explaining to the jury that she suffers from this disorder, which causes one to block traumatic experiences, the jury was left asking why didn’t she reveal her prior conviction when she was questioned about it,” Odeh’s lead attorney Michael Deutsch told The Electronic Intifada.
The court case has been widely criticized as a witch hunt against Palestinian solidarity activism, particularly after it was uncovered that the case against Odeh was part of a larger government clampdown on 23 anti-war activists involved in Palestinian and Colombian issues, which began in 2010.
“The government’s case, an immigration charge, is nothing but a pretext,” Hatem Abudayyeh, Odeh’s colleague at the Arab American Action Network and a member of her defense committee, said back in November last year. "Rasmea is under attack because she is Palestinian, Arab and Muslim, because U.S. law enforcement is going after our successful Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid, and because she embodies the proud and steadfast Palestinian struggle for self-determination, liberation, and the right of return.”
After supporters rallied for Odeh’s freedom nationwide, she was released on bond after serving one month of her sentence, including three weeks of solitary confinement.
The Palestinian activist from Chicago has been free ever since, but if the court decides to uphold the conviction, she will face immediate incarceration.
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