Palestinian Jailed in U.S. for Hiding Conviction in Israel

Rasmea Yousef Odeh convicted for not informing U.S. immigration authorities that she had been jailed in Israel for participating in a 1969 supermarket bombing.

Rasmea Yousef Odeh outside the Detroit court after her sentencing.
Rasmea Yousef Odeh outside the Detroit court after her sentencing.Credit: Reuters

A United States court sentenced a Palestinian activist to 18 months in prison on Thursday for failing to tell authorities that she had been imprisoned in Israel for a 1969 supermarket bombing that killed two people.

Rasmea Yousef Odeh, 67, will be deported after serving her sentence for immigration fraud.

"I'm not a terrorist. I'm not a bad woman," Odeh told the Detroit court before sentencing. She had faced up to 10 years in prison.

Odeh lived for almost two decades in the U.S. and served as associate director of a Chicago-area community organization called the Arab American Action Network.

Federal prosecutors said she failed to reveal her criminal history when she immigrated from Jordan in 1995 and again when she was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2004.

Odeh and members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine were convicted by an Israeli military court for the supermarket bombing and for placing a bomb at the British consulate in Jerusalem.

Defenders of Odeh filed dozens of letters in her support and also gathered outside the courtroom on Thursday.

Her supporters have protested the conviction, saying it was unfair that Odeh was not allowed to tell the jury that her confession to the supermarket bombing was allegedly extracted under Israeli torture.

Odeh's attorneys had argued that she not be imprisoned at all, citing her age, poor health, and chronic post-traumatic stress disorder.

"This is a blow, of course, but we have to remember that the government wanted the judge to lock Rasmea up for half a decade or more," said Muhammad Sankari of the national Rasmea Defense Committee.

Odeh will be free on bond and will return to Chicago while her attorneys appeal the verdict.

The Israel Law Center, which said it helped U.S. prosecutors in the case, said Odeh had received a fair trial.

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