DETROIT — A Chicago Arab activist deceived U.S. officials for years, getting citizenship in 2004 without disclosing that she had spent a decade in an Israeli prison for bombings that damaged the British consulate and killed two people at a supermarket, a prosecutor said at the start of the woman's trial Wednesday.
Rasmieh Odeh answered "no" when asked if she had ever been charged, convicted or imprisoned, first when she applied to enter the U.S. from Jordan in 1995 and then in 2004 when she sought citizenship in Detroit.
Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, had many opportunities to come clean, especially in an interview during the citizenship process, but repeatedly lied, prosecutor Mark Jebson told jurors in federal court.
"She should have never been allowed in the United States from the beginning," he said. "It's a simple, straightforward case."
Odeh, 67, doesn't dispute her "no" answers on the forms. Defense attorney Michael Deutsch suggested she was confused, thinking the questions were about U.S. convictions, not ones in foreign countries.
"She had come in and lived here nine years. That was the most logical interpretation," Deutsch said in his opening remarks.
Odeh lived in the Detroit area before moving to Chicago where she's "respected and revered" as an activist who helps new immigrants, he said.
Dozens of supporters traveled from Chicago to watch the trial, either in the courtroom or in a separate courtroom that carried a video feed. Those watching the TV screens nodded their heads and softly clapped when Deutsch asked a question or made a remark they liked.
The case has angered pro-Palestinian activists who accuse the U.S. government of trying to silence critics of Israel.
Odeh was 22 when she was arrested for a series of bombings in Jerusalem in 1969. She was convicted and sentenced to life in prison but released in 1979 in a prisoner swap between the Israeli government and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Odeh claims the Israeli military tortured her into confessing. U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain repeatedly told Deutsch that questioning the legitimacy of a criminal case from decades ago, especially in front of jurors, is irrelevant in the Detroit trial.
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