Convicted terrorist pleads guilty to lying on visa about criminal record
Convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who has lived in the United States since 1995, pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying about her criminal past on her visa application as part of a deal in which she agreed to be deported in exchange for no prison time.
Odeh, a longtime Palestinian activist in Chicago, appeared in federal court in Detroit after signing an agreement admitting that she failed to disclose on the application her conviction in two 1969 bombings in Jerusalem, including an attack that left two dead.
Even so, the 69-year-old Odeh refused to utter the word “guilty” under repeated questioning by U.S. District Judge Gershwin A. Drain, instead saying, “I signed this,” according to The Associated Press.
“The United States will never be a safe haven for individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts,” said Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations in Detroit. “When individuals lie on immigration documents, the system is severely undermined and the security of our nation is put at risk.”
A member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Odeh was found guilty in the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner.
She was sentenced to life in prison for the supermarket attack as well as the 1969 bombing of the British Consulate, but was released in a 1980 prisoner exchange.
Odeh and her supporters have maintained that she was tortured into confessing, which prosecutors have disputed. She was found guilty of immigration violations in a 2014 trial and sentenced to 18 months in prison, but her conviction was overturned in February 2016.
Even though she was entitled to a new trial, which was scheduled to begin in May, she accepted the plea agreement in March. If found guilty, she could have been sentenced to a maximum 10 years in prison.
As part of the deal, she signed a document acknowledging that “she made the false statements intentionally and not as a result of any mistake, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or any other psychological issue or condition, as she had previously claimed in court proceedings, or for any innocent reason,” according to the Justice Department.
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Odeh is scheduled to be stripped of her citizenship at her Aug. 17 sentencing hearing before Judge Drain.
“As part of the plea agreement, Odeh agreed to a judicial order of removal, under which she will be deported to her nation of citizenship, Jordan, and will not be allowed to reenter the United States,” said a press release Tuesday from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Outside the courthouse, her supporters, including those with Justice for Rasmea, held signs with messages such as, “Stop Anti-Arab Racism,” while video showed Odeh hugging friends and colleagues before entering the courtroom.
“Rasmea’s case brought together movement for black lives, anti-torture, anti-war, & more to fight for liberation of Palestine,” said Justice4Rasmea in a tweet.
Meanwhile, an Odeh critic held a placard saying, “Justice 4 Rasmea’s murdered victims.”
“Rasmea also was on the list of prisoners whose release was demanded by the Black September terrorists who took Israeli hostages at the 1972 Munich Olympics,” said Cornell Law School professor William A. Jacobson on Legal Insurrection website. “Yet Rasmea’s supporters would have you believe she was just an innocent political activist.”
Odeh’s supporters had argued that she was unlikely to receive a fair trial under “racist” Attorney General Jeff Sessions and “Zionist” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel.
Odeh, who served as associate director of the Arab American Action Network, spoke earlier this month at the Jewish Voices for Peace conference in Chicago.
Rasmea Odeh (right) admitted to lying on her U.S. visa application about her criminal record, including a conviction for bombings in Israel in the 1960s. For the admission, she will get no jail time but be deported.