DETROIT (AP) — An Arab-American activist charged with lying about her conviction for an Israel bombing when she applied for U.S. citizenship appeared in court Wednesday with a new lawyer who pledged to take the case to trial.
Rasmieh Yousef Odeh of Evergreen Park turned down a plea agreement last week in Detroit federal court and fired her attorney. Her new lawyer, Michael Deutsch, has made a career of representing political activists.
“I’m going to trial,” Deutsch told U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, who set it for Oct. 21.
Deutsch said Odeh’s mental state when she applied to enter the U.S. from Jordan in 1994 and sought citizenship in 2004 could become an issue at trial.
Odeh, 66, also known as Rasmea Yousef, is associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago.
She was convicted by an Israeli military court of placing two bombs at a Jerusalem market in 1969. One of them went off and killed two people. Odeh also was convicted of a bombing at the British Consulate, which caused property damage a few days after the market attack.
Sentenced to life in prison, she was released after 10 years in a prisoner swap between Israel and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It involved 76 Palestinians and one Israeli soldier held in Lebanon.
Odeh answered “no” on immigration forms in Detroit when asked if she had ever been charged or convicted of a crime, or spent time in prison, according to the indictment.
“She has been in this country 20 years. She’s served her community. She’s been a model citizen. I just don’t think that’s fair,” Deutsch said outside court, referring to the criminal case. “That’s why I think it’s worth fighting for.”
Even if Odeh is acquitted, she still could be deported in a separate process. Her former attorney, William Swor, had negotiated a plea deal that included deportation but also would have given her six months of freedom to decide where to go.
“It was reasonable,” said Deutsch, who is based in Chicago. “But she’d have to leave the country. Her community is here. That’s a big sacrifice.”
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