Feds Uncover Suburban Woman's Terrorist Past

Social worker faces jail, deportation for not telling officials about 1969 Israeli bombing conviction

A suburban Evergreen Park woman faces possible deportation and prison time after federal officials say she lied about her terrorist past.

Rasmieh Odeh, 66, works as a social worker for the Arab American Action Network where she helps people become citizens and helps to empower women through her work with domestic-violence groups.

"All she has done is dedicate her life to racial and social justice, that's the Rasmieh Odeh I know, and that's the Rasmieh Odeh who's under attack her," Hatem Abuddayyeh said outside a Chicago federal courtroom where Odeh appeared Tuesday.

But federal investigators say in 1969 she was convicted in Israel of participating in the terrorist bombings of a supermarket and the British consulate. Only one bomb — one of two placed at the supermarket — exploded, killing the two people and wounding several others. Israeli authorities have said the attacks were planned by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

An Israeli military court sentenced Odeh to life in prison in 1970, but she was released 10 years later in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front. Israel released 76 prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon, according to Odeh's indictment.

But officials say she neglected to tell U.S. officials about her past when she moved to this country from Jordan and eventually became a citizen.

Odeh faces up to 10 years in federal prison if convicted, deportation back to Jordan and the removal of her U.S. citizenship.

"Maybe somebody's vindictive," said Odeh's attorney, Jim Fennerty, who has known her since 1984. "She's just a wonderful person, she's always caring, she's always puts herself out to help people in the community. She's not a threat to anybody."

The PFLP rose to prominence with a series of hijackings and other attacks in the 1960's and 1970's that killed scores of people. These days, it's a small militant Palestinian faction. The group's leader, Ahmad Saadat, is in jail for his role in the assassination of an Israeli Cabinet minister in 2001.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade said in a statement that anyone convicted of terrorist attack is barred from entering the United States.

"Upon discovery that someone convicted of a terrorist attack is in the United States illegally, we will seek to use our criminal justice system to remove that individual," she said.

Odeh is out of custody after posting a $15,000 bond. Among other conditions, the judge barred Odeh from traveling abroad.

Her next appearance will be in a Michigan courtroom because that's the state she initially immigrated.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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