DETROIT, Nov. 10 (UPI) -- A Palestinian activist in the U.S. was found guilty in federal court Monday of failing to disclose her conviction in a 1969 bombing in Israel while she was applying for U.S. citizenship.
Prosecutors argued Rasmieh Odeh, 67, was a terrorist who lied about her background when she applied to become an American citizen. A jury in Detroit agreed with the prosecution that Odeh committed immigration fraud when she checked "no" on the question asking whether she had ever been convicted of a crime.
Odeh served jail time in Israel after the 1969 bombing of several Jerusalem targets, including an upscale grocery store that left two Hebrew University students dead. After she was released in a prisoner exchange, Odeh immigrated to the U.S. in 1995 and moved to Michigan to care for her ailing father. She became a U.S. citizen in 2004.
Now the associate director of the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, Odeh admits to the conviction, but claims she was tortured into confessing to the crimes. She argued in court that she believed the question was only referring to convictions in the U.S.
For both supporters and critics, the trial has taken on additional meaning.
Prosecutors said her conviction sends a message to all terrorists seeking the protection of the U.S.
"The United States will never be a safe haven for individuals seeking to distance themselves from their pasts," said William Hayes, deputy special agent in charge at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, at the time of Odeh's arrest last year.
But supporters, some 200 of whom traveled to Detroit to protest outside her trial, say the arrest was politically motivated and that Odeh did not receive a fair trial.
"The immigration charge was nothing but a pretext to attack this icon of the Palestine liberation movement," the Rasmea Defense Committee said in a statement Monday. In particular, they complained that Odeh was not allowed to testify about the alleged torture she underwent before confessing.
The RDC said it plans to appeal the guilty verdict.