DETROIT — An activist known for helping Arab women in the Chicago area lost her U.S. citizenship Thursday and will be deported for failing to disclose convictions for bombings in Jerusalem decades ago.
Rasmea Odeh was interrupted three times by a judge as she used her court appearance in Detroit to criticize Israel and the United States and deny that she’s a terrorist.
“This is not a political forum for you to fan the flames of Israeli-Palestinian disputes. … It’s about the application you filled out,” said U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain, who threatened to find her in contempt and send her to jail.
Odeh, 70, pleaded guilty in April to concealing her previous convictions when she entered the U.S. in 1994 and applied for citizenship a decade later. She would have been barred from the country.
Drain followed the plea deal and ordered no prison time. Odeh now will wait for the government to deport her, probably to Jordan.
In 1970, she was convicted of two bombings, including one that killed two men at a supermarket in Jerusalem. She insists she was tortured by Israeli military into confessing. Odeh was released in 1979 as part of a swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
In Chicago, Odeh works as associate director of the Arab American Action Network, which provides social services and education. She is widely respected for her work with immigrants, especially Arab women.
“For 20 years, she lived here peacefully, honourably and gave more than many U.S. citizens,” said defence attorney Michael Deutsch, who criticized prosecutors for filing charges.
Odeh was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 18 months in prison, but the conviction was overturned. She chose to make a deal with the government rather than face a second trial.
One hundred supporters travelled from Chicago to attend the court hearing. More than 1,000 people attended an event last weekend to honour Odeh.
“I will raise my voice to say this: We have the right to struggle for our country,” she said of the Palestinian territories.