An Arab-American community activist from the Chicago suburbs has been arrested on immigration charges for allegedly lying about her conviction for a deadly bombing over 40 years ago in Israel.
Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 66, spent a decade in an Israeli prison for her involvement in a 1969 attack that involved bombs planted at a crowded Yerushalayim supermarket and a British consulate, according to a federal indictment. One of the bombs placed at the supermarket exploded, killing the two people and wounding 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 U.S. authorities accuse Odeh of failing to mention her conviction and time in prison on immigration papers when she came to the U.S. from Jordan in 1995 and before she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2004, the indictment says.
Odeh was arrested Tuesday morning at her home in Evergreen Park, just southwest of Chicago, according to prosecutors. She moved to the Chicago area shortly after gaining citizenship in Detroit in 2004, said Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Odeh works as an associate director at the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago-area nonprofit group that advocates for new immigrants and tries to combat anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice, according to its director, Hatem Abudayyeh.
“She is a leader in the community — a stalwart, an icon,” said Abudayyeh, who appeared at the Chicago federal court building to support Odeh. He added about her arrest, “It’s an escalation of attacks on our community. … We are very, very angry.”
Abudayyeh was one of 23 Palestinian and left-wing activists in Chicago, Minneapolis and Grand Rapids, Michigan, whose homes were raided by the FBI around 2010. The government has divulged almost nothing about the investigation since, and no one has been indicted.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Mason released Odeh from custody on a $15,000 bond, and the judge ordered her to report by Nov. 1 to the federal courthouse in Detroit, where the indictment was handed down. Among other conditions, he barred Odeh from traveling abroad.