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Supporters of Rasmea Odeh lock down U.S. Federal Court building in Oakland

By staff

Oakland, CA – Activists with the Bay Area Rasmea Defense Committee chained themselves to doors of the federal courthouse here, Nov. 12 to protest the conviction and imprisonment of 67-year-old Palestinian community organizer Rasmea Odeh.

Supporters also rallied in front of the federal building, condemning the politically-motivated trial that targeted Odeh because of her role as an outspoken Palestinian leader and activist. Odeh was convicted on Nov. 10 in a Detroit federal court of knowingly lying on her immigration application, even though she maintains that she did not understand the questions on the application.

The main basis for Odeh’s conviction was that she had allegedly falsely answered “no” to a question asking whether she had ever been arrested or imprisoned. The government claimed that Odeh failed to disclose that she had been convicted by the Israeli government of participating in “terrorism,” even though this conviction in a military court lacked due process and was the result of a forced confession made after she was repeatedly tortured and raped by Israeli military authorities.

“The only reason Rasmea was imprisoned in Israel was because she was tortured, sexually assaulted, threatened with death and ultimately forced to confess to charges she didn't commit,” says Hatem Abudayyeh, spokesman for the Rasmea Defense Committee. “Now, more than 40 years later, and after nine years of living here with U.S. citizenship, she's being made to relive her trauma and is wrongly imprisoned once again.” Although the judge in the case allowed the Israeli conviction of Odeh to be used as evidence against her, the torture and rape she suffered – which the judge admitted was credible – was not allowed as evidence, a move that brought widespread condemnation from supporters and human rights activist alike.

“The targeting of Rasmea is purely to criminalize Palestinians who are outspoken and critical of Israel’s oppression and occupation of Palestine,” says Lara Kiswani, Executive Director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. The case against Odeh was originally part of a larger federal investigation in Chicago and Minneapolis where the government has to this day unsuccessfully tried to convict 23 anti-war and Palestinian activists on trumped-up terrorism charges.

Hundreds were present in court to support Odeh over the course of her trial in Detroit, and many more across the country have held solidarity demonstrations demanding that she be freed. Activists in the Bay Area will continue to protest, and vow to intensify their efforts until Odeh is released.

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