Woman charged with immigration fraud, allegedly omitted Israel bombing conviction

Members of Chicago's Arab-American community are coming to the defense of Rasmieh Yousef Odeh.
October 23, 2013 3:22:50 PM PDT
Members of Chicago's Arab-American community are coming to the defense of Rasmieh Yousef Odeh.

The Evergreen Park woman is accused of lying about her role in a deadly Israeli bombing more than 40 years ago. A movement is under way to support Odeh now that she's charged with immigration fraud.

"People love her in the Arab community... they love her in the churches, they love her in the mosques, they love her in the synagogues," said Hatem Abudayyeh.

Abudayyeh works with Odeh at the Arab American Action Network on Chicago's Southwest Side, where she helps immigrants, mostly Arab, transition to the U.S. The Chicago Cultural Alliance has also recognized her, giving Odeh the Outstanding Community Leader Award this year.

"She's an icon actually across the country amongst Arab and Muslim organizations, around civil liberties organizations, among women's empowerment organizations," said Abudayyeh.

But the feds say Odeh, who appeared in federal court this week, was convicted in Israel for her role in two terrorists bombings in 1969. One attack killed two people at a supermarket. The other bomb exploded at the British Consulate in Jerusalem; no one was injured. They say Odeh was sentenced to life in prison but was released 10 years later in a prisoner exchange.

"She's just a wonderful person, she's always caring, she always puts herself out to help others in the community. She is not a threat to anybody," said Jim Fennerty, attorney.

The feds say Odeh immigrated here in 1995, and omitted information about her arrest, conviction and imprisonment. She became a naturalized citizen in 2004.

The U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Michigan says: "An individual convicted of a terrorist bombing would not be admitted to the United States if that information was known at the time of arrival." She goes on that she'll use the justice system to "remove that individual."

Odeh is free on bond. Her supporters plan to go to her first court appearance in Michigan next month. They have also set up a defense committee. If Odeh is convicted, her U.S. citizenship could be stripped, and she could serve up to 10 years in prison.

She falsely told immigration officials she'd lived in Jordan all her life, prosecutors allege.

Odeh, who was arrested early Tuesday morning at her home, made a brief appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason.

A federal indictment handed down by a Detroit grand jury alleges Odeh was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Marxist-Leninist group founded in the wake of the 1967 Six Day War between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

It says two people were killed when Odeh and other PFLP members bombed a crowded Jerusalem supermarket on Feb. 21, 1969, but that a second bombing four days later at the British Consulate was unsuccessful because the bomb was discovered and moved to a safe place before it detonated.

Odeh, who wore a navy blue hooded coat, jeans and black sneakers in court Tuesday, did not address the allegations, speaking only to indicate that she understands the charge.

She was supported in court by two pro-Palestinian activists, Joe Iosbaker and Abudayyeh, both of whom protested vigorously when they were investigated - though not charged - by the FBI in 2010.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.


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