24 June 2015
Torture experts join appeal of Rasmea Odeh’s unjust conviction
For media inquiries: Hatem Abudayyeh, Rasmea Defense Committee, 773.301.4108, [email protected]
Internationally recognized experts on the effects of torture are weighing in on the appeal of prominent Palestinian American activist Rasmea Odeh, who is challenging her unjust November 2014 conviction on an immigration charge. Odeh, who was tortured and raped in an Israeli prison, was denied the right to present a meaningful defense in her Detroit trial last year.
On June 19th, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief on behalf of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel, REDRESS, and the World Organization Against Torture, arguing that Odeh’s trial judge, Gershwin Drain, erred when he did not allow mention of the torture or expert testimony on its effects.
The government’s case against Odeh asserts that she unlawfully gained U.S. citizenship by allegedly giving false answers on her visa application in 1995 and again on her naturalization application in 2004, and that she should have disclosed her conviction, in front of an illegal Israeli military court, for a 1969 bombing–a conviction that was the result of a forced confession after horrific torture.
The reason Odeh’s torture is so important to the case is that the immigration forms that she is alleged to have filled out incorrectly are less than clear, and her conviction turned on what she “knowingly” did or did not do.
The torture left her with chronic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which in the words of her appeal, “blocked her from understanding the time frame in the questions that were answered falsely.”
The amicus brief states, “The Defendant-Appellant, Ms. Rasmieh [sic] Yousef Odeh, asserts that she is a victim of torture, including sexual violence and rape. She was diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following an evaluation by a qualified clinical psychologist. Defendant-Appellant Odeh was denied the opportunity to present evidence at trial on the symptoms of PTSD, the psychological effects of having endured and survived torture, and the impact of these symptoms on her mental state in relation to the charges against her.”
The brief also asks the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit to order a new trial for Odeh. Michael Deutsch, Odeh’s lead attorney, had this to say about the amicus: “We welcome this support from organizations that are familiar with torture and its effects on people’s states of mind. It’s an important issue not only for Rasmea, but for many others.”
Federal prosecutor Jonathan Tukel is objecting to the brief, and it is expected that the Sixth Circuit court will soon make a decision on its filing.
The appeals court is expected to hear oral arguments on the case in Cincinnati this September, or possibly earlier, and the Rasmea Defense Committee will mobilize supporters to attend.
“We are going all out to build support for Rasmea,” stated Nesreen Hasan, a leader of the Rasmea Defense Committee. “She is a hero who has devoted the whole of her life to Palestine and the Palestinian people. She has rendered incredible service to the Arab community. We will stand with her and insist that she gets the justice she deserves.”
For more information and background on Odeh’s case, visit www.justice4rasmea.org