On November 13, 2013, Minneapolis peace activists, including most of those arrested on similar charges in 2010, rallied in support of Palestinian community activist, 66-year-old Rasmea Odeh, who was arrested Tuesday, October 22nd, at her Chicago home on immigration charges. Supporters rallied on her arraignment day in Detroit, where the court hearing was held, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and a number of cites around the country.
An Israeli military court convicted Odeh in 1969 of alleged membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and for a supposed connection to two bombings in Jerusalem that killed two civilians. After spending 10 years, including being tortured, in an Israeli prison, she was released as part of a prisoner exchange. The FBI alleges that Odeh failed to disclose this conviction on her citizenship application.
Odeh came to the U.S. in 1995 after earning a law degree in Jordan and she received U.S. citizenship in 2004.
Earlier this year, the Chicago Cultural Alliance gave Odeh an award for her work to empower immigrant women. She serves as the associate director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), a community organization that offers literacy programs, domestic violence prevention and other empowerment and cultural programs for the Arab American community.
Michael Deutsch of the National Lawyers Guild and the People’s Law Office sad the situation, “appears to be the Department of Homeland Security behaving in a discriminatory fashion, targeting Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians for selective prosecution.”
Barry Jonas, Chicago Federal attorney who handled the indictment 23 anti-war and international solidarity activists in 2010, including nine from Minneapolis, was present at the Detroit arraignment of Odeh even though he is not normally involved in immigration issues. All 23 targets have refused to appear before the Chicago Grand Jury, risking prison terms.
Over 100 people rallied in the frigid cold and wind Wednesday at the Western Michigan branch of the US District Court in Detroit in solidarity with 65 year Palestinian women's rights advocate who was arrested in October on alleged immigration fraud. Activists came from Chicago and the surrounding Detroit area to participate.
Odeh's arrest is being called a politically motivated arrest for her activism in Chicago through the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) and connected to the subpoena of 23 anti-war activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and Michigan that took place in the fall of 201 "We know this is another example of icons and leaders in our community and our institutions coming under attack because of our work in supporting the empowerment of the Arab community," says friend and colleague Hatem Abudayyeh with the Committee to Stop FBI Repression and Executive Director of AAAN in Chicago. "Because of our work specifically as Palestinians and Palestinian supporters trying to challenge US foreign policy and the unequivocal support of Israel's crimes against Palestinians. That's what this is about, it's not about any immigration charge, that's only a pretext."
Odeh was in court for her arraignment Wednesday and instructed by the judge to not leave the Chicago federal district area, only being allowed to travel to Detroit for further court dates.
Outside the court building, people rallyed with chants such as "out of our communities, out of our mosques, DHS [Department of Homeland Security] go get lost" and "we will fight day and night, to protect our rights."
"This case is a continuation of a long string of cases targeting people in the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities," says Ali Abunimah, Palestinian author and journalist who co-founded The Electronic Intifada, "These are, I think, politically motivated cases and I think that's why so many of us are here today because we really understand this about targeting a community, even though the person who has the most at stake in this case is Rasmea Odeh."
After the arraignment hearing, Odeh—who is and has been out on a bail bond, not in jail—was welcomed by a cheering crowd. She said thank you to everyone who came to support her in Detroit and elsewhere.
Solidarity rallies were held Odeh across the country, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Gainseville, Florida, Tuscon, Arizona, Oakland, California and Washington D.C. where activists delivered over 4,000 petition signatures to US Attorney Eric Holder, demanding that the charges against Odeh be dropped.
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