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On the coldest morning all week, supporters gathered early outside the federal courthouse in Detroit on the final day of the trial for Rasmea Odeh. Each day of the trial, security officers have closed the main courtroom before it was full. Today, supporters squeezed into the seats early, ensuring no one would miss the chance to stick by the beloved Palestinian community icon, on trial for allegedly gaining U.S. citizenship unlawfully because of answers she gave on her naturalization documents. In an unnecessary attempt at intimidation, a number of U.S. Marshals and Department of Homeland Security agents were seated in front of friends and family of Rasmea, including close to twenty members of the Arab Women’s Committee that she founded in Chicago.
The morning began with a defense motion for a “directed verdict”—which basically asked the judge to throw out the case against Rasmea because the government failed to prove that Rasmea “knowingly lied” at any point in the immigration process. Judge Gershwin Drain denied the motion, and Rasmea took the stand to continue her testimony.
There was a palpable tension when U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel rose to begin his cross-examination. For more than half an hour, he tried to trip Rasmea up with questions, asking the same ones repeatedly, and often interrupting her, prompting Judge Drain to admonish him at least twice. In spite of this, Rasmea remained calm and clear, frustrating Tukel’s attempt to undermine her credibility or trap her into misspeaking. As a survivor of vicious Israeli physical and sexual torture, her legendary strength was in full effect in the courtroom.
Throughout the trial, Rasmea’s defense has been hindered by countless unjust rulings from Judge Drain, including his refusal to allow evidence about either the torture that forced Rasmea into a confession and a 10-year sentence as a political prisoner, or the chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that caused her to block out that time in her life when she answered the questions on the naturalization form.
Nevertheless, her attorneys put on a strong show, explaining that Rasmea never knowingly gave false information. Her initial immigrant visa application was completed by her brother, because Rasmea could not read or write in English at the time. The naturalization form she filled out 10 years later was unclear and the questions at issue were easily misunderstood. And in Rasmea’s citizenship interview, no one had ever asked her about arrests or convictions in other countries.
While we are hopeful this legal defense is enough to win over the jury, we also know that the government’s case, an immigration charge, is nothing but a pretext. Rasmea is under attack because she is Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim; because U.S. law enforcement is going after our successful Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid; and because she embodies the proud and steadfast Palestinian struggle for self-determination, liberation, and the Right of Return.
As the jury begins deliberations on Monday, Rasmea’s supporters will be there as well, to hear the verdict and to rally with her. Join us at 8 AM Eastern Standard Time at the federal courthouse in downtown Detroit, 231 W. Lafayette Blvd. Another large delegation of Chicagoans are returning to Rasmea’s side after the weekend, emboldened by her thank you speech after the trial: “I [tried] to be…strong and to [re]present the Palestinians and every one of you here in a strong way. It’s very important Monday [for] all of us here to say ‘yes, we are together, and we are fight[ing] for our rights.”