DETROIT (AP) — Dozens of people traveled 300 miles from Chicago on Tuesday to support an Arab activist who is on trial for failing to tell U.S. immigration officials that she was convicted of two bombings in Israel decades ago.
A jury was picked in federal court in Detroit, and opening statements were planned for Wednesday.
There is no dispute that Rasmieh Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, answered "no" on immigration forms in 2004 when asked if she had ever been convicted of a crime or spent time in prison. She subsequently became a naturalized U.S. citizen.
But Odeh was in prison in Israel for 10 years for two bombings, including one that killed two people in 1969 when it was placed at a Jerusalem market.
Defense attorney Michael Deutsch said Odeh may have been confused, thinking the questions referred to crimes in the U.S. Odeh, 66, was in the U.S. for nearly a decade before becoming a citizen.
"They never said anything about foreign arrests," Deutsch said outside court where many of Odeh's supporters held signs and marched.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain has barred Odeh from using post-traumatic stress disorder as a defense, although he said he believes her claim that she was tortured by the Israeli military.
The case has angered pro-Palestinian activists who accuse the U.S. government of trying to silence critics of Israel. Odeh's supporters chanted outside the courthouse: "DOJ, let's be clear, Rasmieh is welcome here." ''DOJ" is a reference to the Justice Department.
"She has been an effective member of the Palestinian community in Chicago," said Dale Lehman, 68, of Chicago.
Odeh is also known in Chicago as Rasmea Yousef.
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