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posted: 5/22/2014 1:01 AM

Activist rejects plea deal in immigration case

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  • Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, is accused of lying on citizenship papers about her conviction for a deadly bombing more than 40 years ago in Israel.

      Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, is accused of lying on citizenship papers about her conviction for a deadly bombing more than 40 years ago in Israel.
    Associated Press file photo

 
Associated Press

DETROIT -- An Arab-American activist from Evergreen Park rejected a plea deal Wednesday and said she would hire a new attorney to defend her against a charge of failing to tell U.S. officials about her role in a 1969 bombing in Israel.

Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago, said she wants to go to trial. But she'll also talk to a new lawyer about the offer from federal prosecutors in Detroit.

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Odeh fired defense attorney William Swor, who negotiated a deal that would have capped any prison sentence at six months and allow her to remain free in the U.S. for an additional six months before being deported, an unusual benefit in an immigration case.

"I felt this is not in my best interest," Odeh, speaking in Arabic, said through an interpreter.

She said she was "looking for a fair trial so I have my full rights."

Odeh was convicted of an attack that killed two people at a Jerusalem market in 1969. An Israeli military court sentenced her to life in prison in 1970, but she was released 10 years later in a prisoner swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Odeh, who is in her 60s, entered the U.S. from Jordan in 1995 and became a naturalized citizen in 2004. She is charged with not disclosing her past when she pursued citizenship in Detroit.

The case has angered pro-Palestinian activists who accuse the U.S. government of trying to silence critics of Israel.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tukel said the plea deal will remain available for a short period.

He noted that most people facing deportation for immigration crimes are immediately locked up again after serving their sentence until they're removed from the U.S. The government, however, was willing to allow Odeh to remain free in the U.S. for many months.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman ordered Odeh to return to court Wednesday with a new attorney.

The indictment refers to her as Odeh, but she's commonly known as Rasmea Yousef in Chicago.

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