ADC Condemns Selective Prosecution and Conviction of Palestinian-American Community Leader Rasmea Odeh
Washington, DC | www.adc.org | November 10, 2014 – Palestinian-American activist and community leader Rasmea Odeh was found guilty today of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is strongly concerned that Ms. Odeh’s selective prosecution is part of a government strategy to intimidate and silence advocates who speak out for Palestinian and human rights, particularly through use of nonviolent movements such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Ms. Odeh allegedly committed immigration fraud on her immigration forms in 1995 because she did not report her alleged conviction by an Israeli military court that used sexual torture to extract a confession from her. The prosecution brought an indictment against Odeh in 2013, nine years after she became a U.S. citizen, and almost 20 years after she filled out her immigration forms.
It is widely believed that Ms. Odeh was prosecuted not because of immigration concerns, but because of her political views — which are supposed to be protected under the First Amendment. She has been an outspoken anti-war community organizer and proponent for Palestinian liberation, self-determination, and ending U.S. funding of Israeli occupation.
Ms. Odeh is a political torture and rape victim. In 1969, Ms. Odeh was jailed, tortured, and sexually abused by Israeli authorities. During this time, Israeli authorities also attempted to force Ms. Odeh’s father to rape her in order to coerce her confession. Ms. Odeh spent ten years in jail because of a confession that was illegally obtained by torture.
Prior to Ms. Odeh’s conviction, ADC wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and urged the Justice Department to stop its targeting of social activists such as Ms. Odeh. ADC reminded the Justice Department that torture is illegal under both U.S. and international law, and urged the Justice Department to stop holding Israelis and Palestinians to separate standards.
ADC is greatly disappointed that the Justice Department continued to prosecute Ms. Odeh and ignored her history as victim of torture. Judge Drain allowed Ms. Odeh’s alleged conviction by Israeli military authorities to be entered into evidence, but did not allow an expert witness to testify regarding Ms. Odeh’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that resulted from her torture and sexual abuse.
ADC strongly believes that Ms. Odeh was subjected to a selective prosecution because of her political views. Ms. Odeh’s actions as a community leader to bring about political, social, and economic change are supposed to be protected activity under the speech, assembly, association, and petition clauses of the First Amendment. ADC urges law enforcement agencies to stop discriminating against community activists based on their political views and targeting those who are actually contributing to the betterment of our society.