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In open court, torture expert says Rasmea Odeh suffers from PTSD, and defense slams Israeli military courts
Detroit, October 21, 2014 – Dr. Mary Fabri testified in today’s evidentiary hearing in the case of Palestinian leader Rasmea Odeh. Fabri, a world renowned clinical psychologist who specializes in working with survivors of war trauma and torture, told the court that Rasmea suffers from “chronic” Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The Department of Homeland Security arrested Rasmea almost exactly a year ago, on October 22, 2013, and charged her with Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, for allegedly answering questions falsely, in her 2004 application for U.S. citizenship, about whether she was ever arrested, convicted, or imprisoned. In 1969, she was sentenced by an Israeli military court that convicts 99.74% of Palestinians who come before it, and served 10 years as a political prisoner. The conviction was based on a confession that was forced in the wake of vicious physical and sexual torture by the Israelis.
Defense attorneys Michael Deutsch and Jim Fennerty contend that the PTSD prompted Rasmea to assume that the questions were addressing her time in the U.S. “I found her to be very credible,” Fabri testified. “As a torture survivor, you develop strategies to live everyday life. Those filters cause you to narrow your focus. She would look at [these questions] with a narrowed filter and a narrowed focus of timeframe.”
When challenged by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Turkel about whether the filter can be controlled, Fabri added, “No, it’s not something you control. It’s automatic.”
Fabri’s testimony is critical to Rasmea’s defense, which argues that the government has to prove “specific intent,” that she willfully lied on her immigration application for the purpose of gaining citizenship.
A few weeks ago, Judge Drain issued a decision agreeing that the government must prove this, but prosecutors have filed a detailed motion asking that he reconsider. Today, Rasmea’s supporters were disappointed to hear that the judge agreed to look at the question again, as he asked the defense to file a written response.
Other major motions were also discussed today, without decisions from Judge Drain. Deutsch argued that documents related to the unlawful Israeli conviction of Rasmea in 1969 should be excluded, since the conviction was based on a confession forced by torture and does not meet U.S. standards of justice.
In addition, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Jebson wanted to enter the word “terrorism” into evidence to describe the alleged crime for which Rasmea was convicted in Palestine. Deutsch rebutted strongly that if the government was allowed to put “terrorism” into evidence, then it “opens up a whole can of worms.” He added that the defense would again then challenge everything about Israel’s military tribunals, including Rasmea’s arrest, torture, and conviction.
Muhammad Sankari, one of the spokespeople for the Rasmea Defense Committee, says, “The prosecution wants to use the word to sway the jury against Rasmea, even though it has nothing at all to do with the alleged immigration fraud. They have hired Matthew Levitt, a discredited ‘terrorism expert,’ to testify against Rasmea. He is a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank funded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and has made a career out of fear mongering, scapegoating, and attacking the Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim communities. We are concerned that the prosecutors are doing the same.”
Dozens of Rasmea’s supporters again filled the courtroom today, despite attempts by prosecutors to discourage their efforts. In response to a government motion that portrayed defense committee members as “mobs” and “hordes” that would intimidate a jury, Judge Drain issued several directives to restrict their conduct inside and outside the courtroom.
Unwavering, supporters pledged to redouble their efforts. Several activists from Chicago and Minneapolis have moved to Detroit, where they are working full-time to mobilize people to fill the courtroom every day of the trial, beginning November 4, and expected to last two to three weeks. One of the activists, Jess Sundin of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, said, “We can’t be intimidated and won’t be deterred. This is a huge case for Rasmea and for Palestine, and we are going to win.”