Honoring Kevin Vodak & We Charge Genocide
The Rasmea Odeh case starts in 1948 when she was one years old and was forced to with her family to flee their home because of Israeli soldiers. The family had to flee to the Jordanian controlled West Bank of Palestine. When they fled they left behind their home and most of their possessions. In the West Bank they made a new home but her father had to move to the United States for work and sent money back to support his family.
In 1967 the Israelis invaded the West Bank and Rasmea and her family were forced to live under occupation. In 1969 Rasmea was arrested for a series of bombings by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. This is a charge that she denies. Also arrested were her two sisters one whom was disabled. As is the normal practice of the Israelis once she was arrested the army destroyed her home which left her family homeless. At the time of her arrest Rasmea was an active supporter of the Palestinian resistance against occupation.
For twenty-five days she was tortured by the Israeli military. The tortured consisted of daily beatings, sexual abuse and electric shock treatment. This consisted of placing electrical cables all over her body and turning on the electricity. After twenty-five days Rasmea signed a confession so the torture would stop. She was taken brought before a military court where she was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1979 there was an Israeli Palestinian prisoner exchange and Rasmea and other women were taken to Geneva where they were released. After release Rasmea spent time in several middle east countries completing her education.
In 1994 Rasmea applied for a permanent resident visa to enter the U.S. so she could take care of her father who was seriously ill. She then moved to the Detroit area after her visa was approved. Upon her father’s death she applied in 2004 for U.S. citizenship and eventually moved to Chicago. After a short time in Chicago she started working for the Arab American Action Network. This organization provides social services for the Arab community. Eventually Rasmea became nationally known for her work with Arab women to help them assimilate to life in the U.S.
In September of 2010, there was an F.B.I. raid in Chicago and the Twin Cities. Houses were ransacked and documents, photos and books of activists who supported the cause of the Palestinians were taken. Even the writings of these activists children and their childrens’were seized. One of the people whose home was raided in Chicago was Hatem Abudayyeh the director of the Arab American Action Network where Rasmea works. Five years have passed since the raid and no one has been charged with a crime.
But in 2013 Rasmea was indicted for giving false statements to procure naturalization. Her case is pending in Detroit because she applied for naturalization in Michigan. National Lawyers Guild attorneys came to her defense including two Chicago attorneys, Michael Deutsch who is the lead attorney and Jim Fennerty.
Pretrial motions were filed by both Rasmea’s attorneys and the government which were contested by both sides. Rasmea’s attorneys retain an internationally known expert in torture. A pretrial hearing was held where the expert testified that that Rasmea because of her torture Rasmea suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. Because of the PTSD it may have affected Rasmea’s ability to answer questions on the naturalization forms correctly.
There was much fighting in court if false procuring of naturalization was a general or specific intent crime. If the court ruled it was a general intent crime then the expert could not testify. If the court ruled that it was a specific intent crime then the expert could testify at trial. At first the judge ruled in favor of the defense and held that it was a specific intent crime. On a motion to reconsider by the government the court reversed the original ruling and held that falsely procuring naturalization was a general intent crime.
Because of the court’s reversal Rasmea’s torture expert was not allowed to testify and Rasmea was not allowed to testify at trial that she was tortured. Also at trial Rasmea was not allowed to testify that she was innocent of the crime she was convicted of in Israel. `And she was not allowed to testify that because of the torture she suffers from PTSD.
At the end of the testimony at trial Rasmea the jury found Rasmea guilty and the judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison. Following the end of her prison sentence she would be turned over to ICE where she would be deported. Rasmea was later released on bond pending appeal.
On October 14, 2015 oral argument was held on the appeal in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeal argument went well with the Court concerned about the denial of the expert testimony. We are hopeful that the Court will send this case back to the trial court for determination of whether or not the expert testimony is relevant. If he decides that the testimony is admissible, Rasmea will be afforded a new trial.
By Holly Sanchez Perry and Abby Means
The DePaul NLG law student chapter continues to organize around progressive issues on campus. With a core group of nine active members, we hope to grow our wider membership this year by heavily promoting disOrientation as well as the national convention later this month in Oakland.
DePaul members are heavily involved in making the law school a more welcoming and inclusive place for trans and gender-nonconforming people. Recently, we circulated a letter explaining the importance of using preferred gender pronouns in the classroom to all of the DePaul Law faculty. We also included a little “Trans 101” to help spread awareness of a community often overlooked, especially within the field of law. In November, we will be putting on a trans-issues panel during lunch for students. We will also being holding a similar event during a faculty meeting.
Additionally, 5-8 DePaul Students will be attending Chicago’s NLG disOrientation this October. We were also approved for funding to send two students to the national convention in October.
Later this semester we are hoping to partner with We Charge Genocide to present a Know Your Rights presentation to a group of high school students in Evanston who specifically requested us. We also plan to host a film screening and lunch for students to learn about the case of Bomani Shakur, currently fighting for his life on death row, and the other four prisoners facing punitive retaliation for their role in fighting unjust prison conditions during the Lucasville Uprising in 1993. We are also in the early stages of organizing a panel with Burge torture survivors as well as attorneys who helped the survivors and convict Burge speak to students about real life stories and experiences of police violence. Lastly, As in previous years, we will host a conversation with Chicago activists working to end police brutality against youth of color.
To contact DePaul NLG, email: email@example.com
Liz Fink, a long time Guild member, and a fearless defender of rebels, radical and revolutionaries, died last week in her home in Brooklyn, New York. For over 40 years Liz fought in the courtrooms and in public forums, for those who resisted government repression. She helped to organize the criminal defense of the rebelling Attica prisoners, and was the lead attorney for the class-action civil rights case which after 25 years resulted in a 12 million dollar settlement. She defended Black Panthers, grand jury resisters, Puerto Rican independentistas, and Muslims falsely accused of terrorism. Liz brought skill, passion and a militancy to her legal representation that should be an example for all us.
Read more on Liz here:
Disorientation is an event for students to discuss surviving law school with our values and commitment to social justice intact. Come meet NLG law students, legal workers, and attorneys, while attending various panels and trainings on how to become a peoples lawyer.
The NLG is dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. We seek to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
Our aim is to bring together all those who recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of workers, women, farmers, people with disabilities, and people of color, upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends; who seek actively to eliminate racism; who work to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; and who look upon the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression.
2:15-3:15 Student Panel
3:30-4:30 Attorney Panel
4:45-5:45 Legal Observer Training
Happy Hour to follow!
Keisha Hankerson was acquitted last week of misdemeanor battery from the December 13, 2014 demonstration to STOP police murder.
Keisha stood strong because, as she said, “I didn’t do anything wrong. Why should I pay a penalty?” She should NEVER have been charged in the first place. The bench trial lasted over an hour with a CPD sergeant changing her story as she was being cross-examined while Keisha and her witness were unshakable in their testimony. Despite being offered several deals over the months between her arrest at the December 13th protest and again just before her trial started on Thursday, Keisha held steadfast and refused to plead guilty to anything.
Two others arrested at the December 13th protest face even heavier charges – David Iggy Rucker and Alfredo Reyes. Each faces up to 7 years in prison, also for doing nothing wrong. No trial date has been set for either of them.
Keisha thanked everyone who came out to support her. Here she is with her two National Lawyers Guild Attorneys, Theresa Kleinhaus and Jim Fennerty who represented her pro bono on either side of her and with her witness on the right.
Also check out the Stop Mass Incarceration Network which organized the solidarity protest.