DETROIT (AP) — A federal appeals court ruled Thursday that a lower court judge must reconsider a decision blocking testimony by an expert in post-traumatic stress disorder in the case against a Chicago activist convicted of lying about past crimes when she sought U.S. citizenship.
The ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals came in the case of Rasmieh Odeh, who was convicted of failing to disclose her conviction for two bombings in Jerusalem in 1969, including one that killed two people at a market, when she applied for citizenship in Detroit in 2004.
U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin Drain in Detroit stripped Odeh of her U.S. citizenship last March, clearing the way for deportation. She also was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Odeh spent a decade in an Israeli prison for the bombings. But she insists she was tortured into confessing to the crimes, and argued that the expert would have testified that the alleged torture shaped the way she viewed the questions.
The case will go back to Drain to make a determination on whether the expert's testimony will be admitted, said Michael Deutsch, an attorney representing Odeh.
"The appellate court has essentially ruled that it was an error for Drain to have precluded that testimony," Deutsch said in a news release.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit "respects the 6th Circuit's opinion," spokeswoman Gina Balaya said Thursday. "We'll be prepared to make our arguments at the evidentiary hearing when Judge Drain schedules it."
Odeh lived in Israel and Lebanon before moving to Jordan in 1983, according to the Appeals Court opinion document. She was arrested in Israel in 1969 and 1970 and convicted by a military court for her role in the supermarket bombing that killed two civilians and wounded others and in connection with an attempted bombing on the British Consulate.
"One of Odeh's convictions related to her membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was designated a 'foreign terrorist organization' by the United States Secretary of State in 1997," the opinion said.
She was released in 1979 in a prisoner exchange and entered the U.S. in 1995. She had been helping run Chicago's Arab American Action Network, an education and social services agency. When she was sentenced last March, her supporters filled the courtroom and spilled over into another room to watch a video feed. Many marched and chanted in front of the courthouse while waving Palestinian flags.