Update on the legal fight to #FreeRasmeaNow
– Rasmea Defense Committee November 28th, 2014
Ever since her unjust conviction on November 10th, Rasmea has been detained in St. Clair County Jail in Port Huron, Michigan. Three days later, her attorneys filed a motion calling on Judge Gershwin Drain to release her pending sentencing scheduled for March 10, 2015. Since our most recent update, the prosecution has filed a response to the motion, Rasmea’s lawyers have answered that filing, the National Lawyers Guild has filed its own friend of the court brief supporting Rasmea’s freedom, and hundreds of individuals and organizations from across the country have sent letters to the judge urging him to send Rasmea home.
We expect that Judge Drain will be deciding if Rasmea will be freed very soon, but are still calling on supporters to keep up the fight to #FreeRasmeaNow! What you can do:
- Many of you have already submitted letters urging the judge to release Rasmea. We are still collecting individual and organizational letters to him. Use the sample letter here and send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org right away.
- You have also sent letters to Rasmea, and this continues to be important. She has called her Chicago colleagues from jail a number of times, written letters, and has received a few visitors as well. Her spirits are high and she is looking forward to the next step in the fight for justice in her case. We encourage you to continue to send letters of support to Rasmea. (Please remember that prison authorities will read all of your letters.)
Rasmieh Odeh #144979
St. Clair County Jail
Port Huron, MI. 48060
- Fundraise and contribute to Rasmea’s commissary fund and to her ongoing defense. Donate at stopfbi.net/donate. Commissary funds allow Rasmea to purchase food, blankets, writing materials, and other items to make her more comfortable in the jail. Expenses continue to mount for Rasmea’s legal defense and ongoing community organizing. We will file an appeal of this unjust verdict, and that will take resources.
- Spread the word! When publicizing on social media, use the hashtags #Justice4Rasmea and #FreeRasmeaNow.
The Truth on Trial: Torture and Conviction in Israel
The government offers three main reasons Rasmea should not be released on bond: They say she is dishonest, she hasn’t respected the court, and she doesn’t have sufficient ties to her community in Chicago. Each of these is answered by Rasmea’s defense attorneys in their own filings.
The government argues that Rasmea cannot be trusted to return for sentencing because she has lied about the events that took place in Israel 45 years ago. They dismiss her claims of innocence in the Israeli case, and her claim of torture at the hands of her Israeli captors. As for her role in the 1969 bombings she was “convicted” of by Israel, the defense counters, “[The government] relies on 45-year-old documents from the universally discredited Israeli military legal system of that time—when the Israeli Army was consolidating its illegal occupation of the West Bank, which continues to this day despite the condemnation of the entire civilized world—to prove it.”
In its motion, the government states that the Israeli military court denied Rasmea’s charges of torture at her trial there in 1970. Rasmea’s attorneys responded sharply, “Again and again the government cites Israeli military court documents which are absolutely without any legitimacy, ignoring the world-wide condemnation of its use of systematic torture and lack of fairness and impartiality, even by the Israeli Supreme Court. Certainly there is little probative value in a denial of her claims of torture by the soldiers who sat as judges in Ms. Odeh’s military trial.”
The government also disputes the torture because there was nothing written about it in a State Department report filed regarding her father, Yousef Odeh. Rasmea’s attorneys answer, “Counsel for the government neglects to mention that after his release from the Israeli prison, Yousef Odeh’s testimony about the horrific details of his and his daughter’s torture by Israel was submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations.”
The defense goes on to describe how the government leaves out evidence that supports Rasmea’s claim of torture: “Likewise they ignore the wealth of findings by human rights groups… that the Israeli military judicial system systematically tortures—and did and has since 1967, with impunity, tortured—Palestinian detainees to obtain confessions, and to punish, and terrorize and subjugate the population. And, the prosecution also neglects to inform the Court that one of its own witnesses before the grand jury in this case testified that she was imprisoned at the ‘Moscow Villa’ interrogation center with Ms. Odeh, and saw her being tortured, with wires attached to her body, and that she herself was also tortured while in secret police custody with Ms. Odeh.”
Rasmea is an icon of the Palestinian liberation struggle. Her defense team makes it clear that the government’s attack on her is an attack on that movement. “Nevertheless, in service to exactly what legitimate U.S. governmental interest, other than branding Palestinian resistance as terrorism and currying favor with the U.S. pro-Israel lobby, the prosecution here seems to want to resume her punishment for that 45-year-old supposed offense, in doing so, it not only steadfastly ignores that people whose land is occupied will resist, but the far greater acts of violence against civilians by the Israeli aggressors.”
“We will find justice”
When the government also argues that Rasmea has not respected the court and its orders, they describe events that were witnessed by Rasmea’s supporters in Detroit during her trial. Judge Drain had placed unbelievable restrictions on Rasmea’s testimony in her own defense, ordering her not to speak of the Israeli torture or the unfairness of her conviction in the Israeli military court. In the main, Rasmea honored those orders in her testimony. However, Rasmea let the truth slip out on a few occasions. These occasions were no willful violation of court orders, but simply the actions of a profoundly truthful person who could find no other way to respond to heated cross-examination by prosecutor Jonathan Tukel.
Outrageously, the government also criticizes Rasmea for public statements she made outside the courthouse just minutes after the jury’s decision. Her attorneys say, “… a defendant has a first amendment right to speak about her reaction to the verdict.” Supporters were inspired when she told us, “We will find justice. Maybe not in this court, but someplace.” The government twisted these words into some evidence that Rasmea is a flight risk, but for those of us who stood with her as she spoke, we understood this not as a call to flee, but a call to stand strong and keep up the fight.
Defense attorneys further explain Rasmea’s commitment to stay and fight this case in the courts: “…the defendant has no incentive whatsoever to flee, and forfeit her appeal. If she wanted to leave, without the risk of imprisonment, she would have accepted the government’s plea offer, which required her to plead guilty, and thus lose her citizenship… after which she could depart voluntarily, without immigration imprisonment.”
Deep community ties
Rasmea’s attorneys wrote, “The government of Israel amnestied Rasmieh [sic] Odeh, and commuted her sentence, in a prisoner exchange between Palestine and Israel, 35 years ago. Since then she has lived an exemplary, indeed admirable and singularly socially productive life, especially during her time in America, where she is, manifestly, so greatly admired and loved in and by her community, which (it should be crystal clear) she would never forsake.”
Ignoring a legion of supporters – from the hundreds who attended every day of her trial, to the hundreds who’ve signed and sent letters to the court on Rasmea’s behalf, the government claims that it is exaggeration to say “she has unique and extraordinary ties to her community in Chicago.” The government offers no counter-evidence here, but goes on to suggest that if Rasmea were to flee to Palestine, the extradition treaty with Israel would not guarantee her return for sentencing in the U.S. The defense makes it clear that “there would be no problem with extradition” from Israel (or Jordan), but also challenge the government’s claim that Rasmea could “flee without a passport.”
Difficult Conditions in County Jail
Rasmea’s attorneys write, “Right now she languishes in a County Jail, which really does not have proper medical facilities, or even sufficient heat. She has [a dental condition] causing pain, and is experiencing spikes in her blood pressure—to say nothing of the recurrence of her PTSD symptoms.”
They urge Judge Drain to act: “The unrelenting cold, the forced inactivity and the Defendant’s remoteness and isolation in Port Huron are respectfully urged on the Court’s attention as additional equities, in support of Ms. Odeh’s pending plea for Reconsideration of the Court’s Order revoking her bail pending the sentencing hearing. The problems with her teeth and her blood pressure are even stronger reasons for release at this time (as well as against any likelihood that she would attempt to flee); but they are also matters of budding emergency…”
The Rasmea Defense Committee thanks you for your continued support. For updates and more information, visit USPCN.org and StopFBI.net.