August 12, 2014

Judge Borman steps down from the case of Rasmea Odeh

PRESS STATEMENT: For Immediate Release | Rasmea Defense Committee

Press contact: Hatem Abudayyeh, 773.301.4108, [email protected]

Today, Judge Paul D. Borman removed himself from the case of Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh. Earlier this month, the judge stridently denied a defense motion calling on him to step down. The motion claimed that his life-long support for the state of Israel—whose arrest, torture, and conviction of Odeh for alleged Jerusalem bombings in 1969 is at issue in this case—would not allow for a fair trial. Odeh has pleaded not guilty to the charge of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, and vehemently refutes the Israeli convictions, which were based on a forced confession after extended periods of vicious physical and sexual torture.

Borman refused the motion, dismissing defense arguments about his decades of trips to and fundraising for Israel, claiming his “religious convictions” did not bring his impartiality into question.

According to supporters, Borman was falsely covering Zionist ideology with Judaism. “We opposed Judge Borman not because of his Jewish faith, but because of his decades of support for the state of Israel,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, a spokesperson for Odeh’s defense committee. “Rasmea overcame vicious torture by Israeli authorities while imprisoned in Palestine in the 70s. She has committed no crime and the government has no case. We need a judge willing to listen to a defense that puts Israel on trial for its crimes against Rasmea, and against all Palestinians.” In an unexpected turn of events, Borman admitted his financial ties to Israel “could be perceived as establishing a reasonably objective inference of a lack of impartiality in the context of the issues presented in this case.” Defense claims of pro-Israel bias are vindicated, and Borman has removed himself. The case has been randomly re-assigned to U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain.

Supporters of Odeh hail this as a victory for the defense, but are re-doubling efforts to win justice for Rasmea.

Abudayyeh continued: “This case is a political attack on the Palestine liberation movement, and that means we need a political defense as much as a legal defense. Thousands of people from across the country are fighting for Rasmea, demanding that the government drop the charges against her. If they don’t, we are still going all out for Detroit, to fill the courtroom every day of the trial.”

A status hearing in front of Judge Drain is still planned for Tuesday, September 2nd, in Detroit, and the Rasmea Defense Committee is calling for supporters to pack the courthouse and call the prosecutors to demand that they drop the charges on that day. The date of the actual trial will be rescheduled.

The national Rasmea Defense Committee includes United States Palestinian Community Network, Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR), Coalition to Protect People’s Rights (CPPR), 8th Day Center for Justice, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)-Chicago, American Muslims for Palestine, Anti-War Committee (AWC)-Chicago, AWC-Minneapolis, Arab Jewish Partnership for Peace and Justice in the Middle East, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, Committee Against Political Repression, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Chicago, CAIR-Michigan, Friends of Sabeel-North America, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, International League of Peoples’ Struggle-U.S., Jewish Voice for Peace, Lifta Society, National Boricua Human Rights Network, National Lawyers Guild (NLG), National Students for Justice in Palestine, Palestine Solidarity Group-Chicago, Palestine Solidarity Legal Support, Palestinian Youth Movement-USA Branch, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, United African Organization, United National Antiwar Coalition, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Voces de la Frontera, and Women Against Military Madness.