Palestinian terrorist’s US immigration fraud conviction vacated

A U.S. appellate court on Thursday vacated the conviction of a Palestinian terrorist charged with immigration fraud for failing to tell U.S. authorities she had been imprisoned in Israel for a 1969 supermarket bombing that killed two people.

Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 68, has said her confession to the bombing was the result of severe torture by the Israeli military, including rape and electric shocks.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Appellate Court opinion said a lower court should have allowed expert testimony that Odeh was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to torture in prison, and did not know her statements to immigration officials were false.

The appellate court said the lower court erred by excluding the testimony.

The expert would have testified that Odeh’s PTSD caused her to interpret questions in a way to avoid any thought of her trauma, the court opinion said.

The three-judge panel also vacated the 18-month prison sentence against Odeh imposed last March, and sent the case back to the district court. Odeh has been out on bond during her appeal, said defence attorney Michael Deutsch.

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“It goes to the heart of the case,” said Deutsch of the opinion. “We’re happy, because we’re still going to be fighting for her rights in court.”

Another judge on the panel wrote that the conviction should be vacated on other grounds.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit was not immediately available for comment. Prosecutors could decide to ask that the case be re-heard by the full appellate court.

If the lower court decides the PTSD testimony is admissible, it will require a new trial. If the court finds another reason to exclude the testimony, the case will go back on appeal, Deutsch said.

Odeh was arrested in March 1969, and in 1970 was convicted and sentenced by an Israeli military court to life in prison for her involvement in two terrorist bombings in Jerusalem and involvement in an illegal organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). 

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One of the bombings killed 21-year-old Leon Kanner from Netanya and 22-year-old Eddie Joffe of a Tel Aviv suburb, on February 21, 1969. The two were killed by a bomb that was placed in a crowded Jerusalem SuperSol supermarket which the two students stopped in at to buy groceries for a field trip. The same bomb wounded nine others.

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A second bomb found at the supermarket was defused. Odeh was also convicted of bombing and damaging the British Consulate four days later. Israeli authorities said the bombings were the work of the PFLP, which claimed credit for the bombings.

In 1980, Odeh was among 78 terrorists released by Israel in an exchange with the PFLP for one Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon. 

Contrary to claims that Rasmea confessed to the bombing only after 25 days of sexual torture, in fact Rasmea confessed in a highly detailed handwritten document the day after her arrest, and there was substantial evidence independent of the confession.  Years later, after they all were out of Israeli prison, Rasmea’s co-conspirators would credit Rasmea with being the mastermind of the bombing: