On Thursday, March 12, Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh was sentenced to 18 months in prison followed by immediate deportation to Jordan. She is also having her American citizenship revoked.
Odeh was convicted of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization on November 10, 2014, following a trial that was filled with controversy and contentious legal decisions.On February 27, Judge Gershwin Drain denied a motion from Odeh’s defense attorneys to obtain a retrial due to the many legal errors leading to the conviction.
Throughout the trial, the judge’s rulings made it very clear that the court wasn’t interested in a fair trial for Rasmea, but was simply interested in convicting her. Despite acknowledging Odeh’s claims of torture by the Israeli Defence Forces as “credible”, Judge Drain claimed that these allegations were irrelevant and ruled them inadmissible as evidence before the court. Rasmea was unable to even mention the conditions under which she was held by the IDF, which forced her into the false confession that led to her prison time in Israel. Further, the defense was prevented from bringing an expert witness to speak on the ways that Odeh’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder would have affected her while she was applying for naturalization.
The trial was based largely on evidence provided by the Israeli military and their claims of her involvement in terrorist activity; however, it is well known that there is no due process for Palestinians in Israeli military courts, with 99% of their trials resulting in convictions. By using the Israeli conviction of Rasmea to build a case against her in the United States, the American justice system has not only denied Rasmea her natural rights within this country’s legal system, but it has essentially acted as an extension of the Israeli military court.
Through Rasmea Odeh’s conviction and sentencing, the court has openly legitimized the IDF’s use of torture as a means of repressing Palestinians in Israel. Because Rasmea was prevented from bringing up the brutal physical and sexual abuse that she endured at the hands of the IDF and the subsequent PTSD that she suffered, she was not able to provide a full defense for herself in front of the jury.
Throughout the trial, Odeh has been repeatedly branded as a terrorist through racist and very intentional means. This label, used ubiquitously in the United States to delegitimize the Palestinian struggle for liberation, is being used to justify the sentencing of a woman who has lived in this country for almost 20 years and made valuable contributions as a community activist in that time.
Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine condemns the court’s decision to sentence Rasmea Odeh to prison and to have her subsequently deported to Jordan. Once again, the American court system has failed to maintain justice, and it has shown that it continues to function with a specific agenda that includes the repression of Palestinian activists.