A federal judge refused Thursday to dismiss charges against an Arab activist accused of failing to tell U.S. immigration officials in Michigan that she'd been convicted in a fatal terrorist bombing in Jerusalem.
Rasmieh Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network, is being targeted for political reasons, her lawyers said in a motion seeking to have the case thrown out. They said the case grew out of "an illegal investigation of the First Amendment activities" of the Chicago group and amounted to selective prosecution.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in an Aug. 28 filing that Odeh's lawyers failed to meet the "high burden" of proof for a selective prosecution charge. U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain rejected the defense claim Thursday and scheduled Odeh's trial to begin Nov. 4 in Detroit.
As the case was being heard Thursday, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington announced that it has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to halt the prosecution, saying it "plays into the belief and perception that the ... government is intentionally targeting and prosecuting Arab American activists."
"Odeh is an exemplary citizen and well-respected leader in the Chicago Arab-American community" who has dedicated her life to the community and worked extensively on issues of women's well-being and "anti-Arab sentiment," Samer E. Khalaf, a lawyer for the group, said in a letter to Holder.
An Israeli military court convicted Odeh of bombing a Jerusalem supermarket and trying to bomb the British Consulate in 1969. Two people were killed in the market bombing. Israel freed her after 10 years in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Khalaf said the military court conviction was based on a confession from Odeh that "was illegally obtained by torture and sexual abuse while she was detained in Israel and denied due process."
The U.S. attorney's office in Detroit didn't immediately return a message to The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday.
U.S. authorities accuse Odeh of failing to mention her conviction and time in prison on immigration papers when she came to the U.S. from Jordan in 1995 and before she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2004. Her lawyer, Michael Deutsch, has said Odeh had post-traumatic stress disorder and that it should be considered when evaluating her statements to immigration officials.
The judge said he would hear arguments later on whether Israeli court files should be admitted as evidence and whether to grant Odeh's request that potential jurors answer written questions about their attitudes toward Arabs, Palestinians, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Muslims, U.S. foreign policy and immigrants.
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