Immigration Law

Law grad convicted of concealing Israel bombings conviction to get US citizenship

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A 67-year-old law graduate and community activist has been found guilty of failing to reveal on U.S. immigration paperwork a 1970 bombings-related military conviction in Israel regarding a fatal supermarket attack in order to get American citizenship.

Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, who was released by Israel after serving 10 years and had her life sentence commuted, was found guilty Monday by a federal jury in Detroit. The Associated Press, the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press have stories.

Her lawyer, Michael Deutsch, argued at trial that U.S. forms were unclear about what should be disclosed, and Odeh testified that a federal immigration officer in Detroit didn’t add questions.

Deutsch also said after the guilty verdict that Odeh’s background was no secret, since she testified at the United Nations after her 1979 release about what she described as torture at the hands of Israeli authorities before her confession. This claim was not introduced into evidence at trial, however, because the judge ruled it was not relevant to the issue of what Odeh disclosed on her U.S. paperwork.

“The U.S. Embassy knew it, the State Department knew it, and immigration should have known it,” said Deutsch of his client’s imprisonment in Israel.

Odeh has been living in a Chicago suburb and working as associate director at the Arab American Action Network. She made a name for herself as a Palestinian community activist and supporter of women’s rights, and her immigration case has been controversial. About 80 supporters rallied outside the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit after she was found guilty.

“This case just shows that the U.S. Attorney’s Office is nothing but a tool for the U.S government and its support of Israel,” said Hatem Abudayyeh. He is executive director of the AAAN and a leader of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

“An individual convicted of a terrorist bombing would not be admitted to the United States if that information was known at the time of arrival,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade in a press release at the time the case against Odeh was announced. “Upon discovery that someone convicted of a terrorist attack is in the United States illegally, we will seek to use our criminal justice system to remove that individual.”

Odeh now potentially faces deportation and a prison sentence of as much as 10 years.

She previously turned down a plea deal that would have required her to serve no more than six months and delay deportation for six months more after she completed her sentence, the Associated Press reported earlier.

Related coverage: “Community activist with law degree hid bomb-plot conviction to get US citizenship, indictment says”

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