Criminal Justice

Feds cite ISIS in effort to get stiff sentence for civil rights worker with law degree

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Federal prosecutors are seeking a stiff sentence for a Palestinian law graduate in her late sixties who left out information about a 1970 bombing-related conviction in Israel when she applied to immigrate to the U.S. in 1994.

Rasmieh Odeh is nearly 70 years old and has won accolades for her work promoting Arab-American civil rights, in and around Chicago and Detroit. However, after reportedly refusing a plea bargain that would have required her to serve only six months, she was found guilty in November of immigration fraud concerning both her initial application and paperwork she filed seeking U.S. citizenship in 2004.

Now, drawing a parallel to those who have fought for ISIS, federal prosecutors are seeking a prison term of five to seven years, according to the Detroit Free Press. Sentencing guidelines call for 12 to 21 months.

“A light sentence in this case would be a signal to anyone who has fought overseas for ISIS or a similar organization that there is not much risk in coming to the United States, hiding one’s past and seeking citizenship,” says a Wednesday pre-sentencing memorandum filed by the government.

Prosecutors contend that Odeh, who has said she was tortured into confessing to the Israel crime and had her sentence in the fatal bombing case commuted after 10 years, did in fact help carry out the bombing and was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the U.S. government calls a terrorist group.

Odeh’s lawyers, supported by a number of prominent observers including academics, attorneys and religous leaders, say she is not a terrorist and has done valuable civil rights work, the newspaper reports. She is associate director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, which is part of the Michigan-based National Network for Arab American Communities.

“I am asking for compassion in her sentencing,” wrote retired Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit in one of more than 70 letters included in Odeh’s pre-sentencing memorandum. He said that keeping Odeh out of prison “would allow her to continue as a contributing and productive person, doing the work that is so critical to hundreds of refugee women.”

Related coverage: “Community activist with law degree hid bomb-plot conviction to get US citizenship, indictment says” “Law grad convicted of concealing Israel bombings conviction to get US citizenship”

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