Tag Archives: First Amendment

#Inequality – Targeting a beloved women’s rights activist simply because of her heritag

rasmea odehIn just a few short weeks, a beloved and respected community organizer from Chicago will begin an ordeal that will determine whether the US government will strip her of her citizenship, imprison her for 10 years and ultimately deport her to country unknown.

On Nov. 4, 2014, Rasmea Odeh will appear in federal court in Detroit to face one charge of ‘unlawful procurement of naturalization,’ for allegedly omitting an answer on her citizenship application. The end results could be devastating: Odeh, 67, faces a decade in prison and the revocation of the citizenship she gained 10 years ago.

Odeh, an attorney by trade, is known throughout the country for her activism, particularly for defending civil liberties and immigrant rights. She’s been a staple in Chicago activism circles for years. Her Arab Women’s Committee has more than 600 members and she’s a mentor to hundreds of immigrant women. She is well loved and respected, not only in Chicago, but throughout the United States.

To understand how a woman, who just last year was the recipient of the Chicago Cultural Alliance’s “Outstanding Community Leader Award,” came to this point, one must understand the geo-politics of America’s “special relationship” with Israel and how being Palestinian, as Odeh is, can sentence someone to a lifetime of inequality.

The life she successfully created for herself in her adopted country came crashing to a halt on the morning of Oct. 22, 2013, when agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested her in her home. In one quick court appearance later that morning, where she was charged with lying on her citizenship application, past memories of physical and sexual torture by Israeli military officials, a confession compelled by that torture, which she later recanted, and 10 years of brutal and illegal incarceration came back to haunt the beloved community organizer.

“Rasmea was horrifically tortured for 25 days, she was denied access to a lawyer for 45 days. She – as were all the other (500 people) arrested – confessed under torture and then recanted her confession, but nonetheless, spent 10 years in prison. Then she was released in a prisoner swap,” and she came to join her father and brother in Detroit, who were naturalized US citizens,” her defense attorney Michael Deutsch told Flashpoint radio.

Odeh eventually relocated to Chicago, where she became the associate director of the Arab American Action Network. Ten years after arriving in the United States, she applied for citizenship. It was in this context that Odeh answered questions regarding previous arrests and detentions.

“She had been in the US for 10 years when she answered those questions and it was obvious to her the questions were about ‘were you ever arrested in the US?’ ‘Were you ever convicted and imprisoned in the US?’ They were trying to see how she comported with US society over those 10 years,” Deutsch said. “Nevertheless, they are going back 45 years and saying that she lied about the fact she had been arrested in a war situation and convicted of charges that were part of a systematic use of torture by the illegal occupation courts that the [Israeli] military set up on the West Bank,” he added.

The fact the Department of Justice is pursuing a case nearly half a century old, based upon a confession forced by torture in a foreign country, shows just how the US’ “special relationship” with Israel can hurt American citizens. Other notorious cases in the US have relied upon secret evidence supplied by Israel, such as the case against American citizen Mohammed Salah and the case against what had been the country’s largest Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation. In the latter case, the court also allowed Israeli witnesses to testify under disguise and in secret. Mohammad Salah eventually was acquitted of the charges against him, while five men from the Holy Land Foundation were convicted and are serving unusually lengthy sentences ranging from 15 years to 65 years.

Recently, Judge Drain dismissed a motion to dismiss Odeh’s case on the grounds it’s based on illegal evidence obtained in a four-year-old investigation into 23 anti-war and Palestine solidarity activists. In the latest development, prosecutors are trying to create the impression that Odeh and her supporters present a danger to anyone serving on the jury and, therefore, are asking for an anonymous jury that would be sequestered. Calling her supporters, ‘hordes” and “mobs,” the prosecutor also is showing a bias against Palestinians and their supporters.

“There is a distinctly racist, anti-Arab undertone to the prosecutor’s motion, where spirited and dignified protests,” said key defense committee organizer Hatem Abudayyeh, who was one of the 23 activists targeted in the investigation. “Again, the federal government is trying to sow fear among people in the U.S. by criminalizing and stereotyping Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims. As one of Rasmea’s lawyers said when he was informed of the motion, it ‘is only intended to play the ‘terrorism’ card and is unacceptable.’”

For her part, Odeh is continues her work with the women’s committee and her work at the Arab American Action Network to keep her mind off the impending trial. Looking at a flyer for an upcoming event at the end of the November, schedule two weeks after her trial is expected to end, she sighs.

“I hope I will be able to come. I am keeping busy to keep my mind off things. And I have hope. We must have hope.”

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50 protests scheduled for today across United States

Today, 50 protests organized by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression are scheduled across the United States. Today, several pro-Palestinian activists have been ordered to appear before the federal grand jury in Chicago. They all will refuse to testify.

We feel this action by US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is part of an effort to stifle activism and debate about Israel’s occupation of Palestine. If you care for Palestine, if you want to fight to protect our First Amendment rights of free speech and free assembly, then please attend one of these protests!

Rallies are planned across the country. To see if your city is having one, click here.

Below is a note from national organizer Tom Burke:

January 25, 2011

Dear Friends and Fellow Activists,

1.  Today is the Committee to Stop FBI Repression National Day of Action against U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury in Chicago. There will be more than 50 protests.  We ask that you report on your local rallies and send photos to January 25th Protest Reports

2.  We are also asking that you consider reading this Lynne Stewart Solidarity Statement, from the imprisoned political activist and lawyer, at your rallies.

3.  Also, we ask that you promote the CSFR Regional Conferences and distribute the flyer for it.  At the four regional conferences we will discuss the latest developments in the U.S. government’s repression and our united struggle to overcome it.

4.  Finally, we are planning a National Call In Day to follow up on today’s protests.  So keep your eyes on the prize and expect Call In information, so you can take part in the next step of our campaign, leading up to the regional conferences.

Adelante!  Tom Burke, for the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, 773-844-3612

 

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Chicago students attempt to subpoena US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald

Students speak at a rally in front of the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago on Jan. 14. Photo/Maureen Murphy

On Friday, Jan. 14,  student activists protesting the FBI raids and harassment of anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists, attempted to deliver their own subpoena to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago.

Federal agents prohibit students from delivering their "People Subpoena" to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald on Jan. 14, 2001, at the Dirksen Federal Building in Chicago. Photo/Maureen Murphy

Below is an excerpt from the comments of Stansfield Smith, whose daughter supposedly has been subpoenaed.  I say supposedly because, according to Stanfield’s comments, the FBI alerted his daughter she’d be issued a summons to appear before the Grand Jury, but as of Friday agents still had not delivered it.

Several college students are among those who must appear before the Grand Jury, which is looking into material support of terrorism, 4:30 p.m., Jan. 25 at the Dirksen Federal Building, 219 S. Dearborn, Chicago. There are 30 such actions planned for that date across the country. To date, more than 20 activists, mainly from the Midwest, have been subpoenaed. In the case of those from Minnesota, the FBI had infiltrated its group for 2.5 years.

To learn more about the situation or to see how you can stage a rally in your area, go to www.stopfbi.net.

Excerpt from Stanfield’s comments made Friday:

My daughter Sarah is one of those being subpoenaed in this case. The FBI said on December 3  she was being subpoenaed. Now it’s January 14 and they still haven’t delivered it. They scheduled to deliver it last Tuesday, but called to cancel because a few inches of snow fell. They have not rescheduled.

This, they assert,  is a grand jury investigation into some type of support to terrorism. But I guess they find a few inches of snow to be a greater threat. I think their attitude last Tuesday shows their real reason is not keeping us safe from terrorism, but harassing and intimidating those opposed to US wars.

You here today  recognize what Fitzgerald and the FBI are doing  in this Grand Jury case is unconstitutional and illegal, and he should be subpoenaed for it.

Why is my daughter being subpoenaed? She’s Jewish, on her mother’s side, and wanted to explore her roots. She didn’t want to go on a free “Birth Right” trip to Israel because she would only see one side. So she went with some Palestinian-American friends – who, unlike my daughter, really do have a birth right –  to see both Israel and Israeli occupied Palestinian lands.

As Sarah had said before, you would think if the US government encourages peace between Israel and Palestine, it would encourage American Jews and American Palestinians to go together and visit both lands together in an effort to make peace.

If every Jew or Palestinian in the US traveled together there like my daughter and her friends did, that itself  would go a long ways towards ending that Mideast conflict.

If Fitzgerald were doing his job, he would be defending her actions, not subpoenaing her for peace-making. For that abuse of office, he himself should be subpoenaed.

The police and FBI had infiltrated the Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Minnesota anti-war committee over the past  2 and a half years.

As the Minnesota press conference pointed out Wednesday, the FBI had access to all the Anti-War committee’s records, and knew what Freedom Road and the Anti-War Committee were doing. For these two and half years they never had reason to arrest or indict anyone.

I can only assume the materials they stole from of the subpoenaed peoples’ homes on September 24 contains information the FBI already knows. I can only assume any information they expect to get in the Grand Jury investigations is information they had already collected in the past 2 1/2 years.

Since Fitzgerald’s Grand Jury is not going to find anything new, then it is pretty clear it’s whole purpose is harassment of peace activists. For that, Fitzgerald should be subpoenaed himself.

And  I can only assume the FBI has made no arrests, nor have there been indictments for terrorism because they know no evidence exists.


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Protest latest FBI tactics at rally Monday in Chicago

ACTION ALERT

Federal agents subpoena three more Chicago pro-Palestinian activists

(CHICAGO 12/04/2010) – Federal agents issued subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to three more Chicago pro-Palestinian activists on Friday. Two of those served are college students active in campus pro-Palestinian events.

The federal government is targeting peaceful anti-war and pro-Palestinian activists and the newest subpoenas signal that probe is expanding.

National Lawyers Guild attorney Jim Fennerty, who is representing some of those affected, said at least two of the three are Chicago-area women who visited the West Bank last summer. One of them has been requested to appear before the grand jury on Jan. 25.

“They’re widening the scope of this investigation,” Fennerty was quoted as saying in a WBEZ report. “They’re trying to squeeze anybody they can. This is an attack about people who do solidarity work around Palestine.”

This action comes on the heels of the Sept. 24 FBI raids on several homes throughout the Midwest, including in Chicago. At that time, 14 people active in anti-war and pro-Palestinian efforts, were issued subpoenas to testify before a grand jury in Chicago. To date, all have refused to testify. Subpoenas were re-issued to three activists from Minnesota in attempts to force them to answer questions about those in the anti-war movement, in contravention of the Fifth Amendment. If the refuse to testify again, they face imprisonment for the life of the grand jury.

TAKE ACTION

The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) stands in solidarity with the activists being targeted by the FBI. AMP strongly condemns the actions by the FBI and the Department of Justice in targeting people who are practicing their constitutionally guaranteed rights of dissent, assembly and freedom of speech.

Protest FBI repression against Chicago Palestinian solidarity activists at 4:30 p.m. Monday in front of the Dirksen Federal Building, 203 S. Dearborn (on Jackson and Dearborn), Chicago.

Further action

AMP calls on our supporters and all people of conscience to call U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, write to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, or sign a petition by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

CONTACTS

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald: 312.353.5300

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder .

To sign the petition, click here.

TALKING POINTS

  • I demand justice and an end to the FBI’s continued harassment of antiwar and international solidarity activists, activists who are guilty of no crime but opposition to U.S. foreign policy.
  • This is a dangerous attack on the constitutional rights of free speech of every social justice, antiwar and human rights activist and organization in the U.S. today.
  • The right to speak, meet and write opinions is guaranteed under the constitution.
  • Grand Jury subpoenas investigating material support of terrorism are being used to silence highly respected and well known human rights activists. This is a dangerous national effort to shut down growing opposition to U.S. wars. It cannot be allowed.

 

 

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