Rasmea needed to justify why she helped the Israelis roll-up a terrorist network.
Rasmea Odeh is the terrorist member of the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine who was convicted in Israel in 1970 of the 1969 bombing of the SuperSol supermarket in Jerusalem that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. Rasmea also was convicted of the attempted bombing of the British Consulate.
Rasmea was released in 1979 in a prisoner exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon.
Rasmea made her way to the U.S. in the mid-1990s, where she lied on her visa application by denying any prior convictions or imprisonment, and again in her 2003 naturalization application when she repeated the same false answer.
For more background, and how Rasmea’s supporters have distorted history, see Rasmea Odeh rightly convicted of Israeli supermarket bombing and U.S. immigration fraud and Rasmea Odeh’s victims – then and now.
Rasmea has become a hero to the anti-Israel movement in the U.S., which falsely claims she confessed to the supermarket bombing only after 25 days of horrific sexual torture.In fact, the records show she confessed the day after arrest, there was substantial corroborating evidence, and she received a trial that an observer from the International Red Cross termed fair. Rasmea’s main co-conspirator has said in a video interview decades later that Rasmea was the mastermind.
[Rasmea Odeh (L) and Ayesha Odeh, 2004 film Women in Struggle]
Rasmea was convicted of immigration fraud in federal court in Detroit in November 2014, sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered deported after release from prison.
The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the trial court (but did not reverse the jury conviction) to hold a hearing as to whether Rasmea should have been permitted to call a PTSD expert to testify in the original trial to bolster Rasmea’s claim that she did not knowingly lie.
The Appeals Court did NOT rule that the testimony should be admitted, rather that the trial court should have held a hearing. So, the Appeals Court ordered the trial court to hold a hearing under normal standards for qualifying and presenting expert testimony in federal court.
The trial court will hold a hearing on November 29. If the trial court rules that the PTSD filtering defense does not meet the scientific and legal standards required for such testimony, then the conviction stands. If the trial court rules the expert testimony is admissible, then there will be a new trial in January 2017.
Recent Legal Filings
For a more complete discussion of the legal issues, see my prior post, Legal Analysis: Rasmea Odeh’s “expert” PTSD testimony inadmissible under clear court standards:
The proposed expert testimony of “filtering” and reinterpreting a question despite remembering the traumatic event has no medical or legal foundation. It is wholly speculative, and appears to create a new theory for the purpose of the case. As such, under well-established, the testimony of Rasmea’s PTSD expert should not be admissible.
The defense presents not much new. There still are no medical or legal authorities cited to support the unique PTSD defense claimed — that despite remembering the prior conviction and imprisonment, PTSD caused Rasmea to “filter” and reinterpret the questions on immigration forms falsely answer that she had not “EVER” (caps, bold, on form) been convicted or imprisoned. That lack of scientific authority, in particular, should be fatal to the attempt to call Rasmea’s expert.
The prosecution addressed the main issue of lack of medical or legal authority as its main point. But the prosecution raise some other points I had not thought of: (1) Rasmea’s expert purports to evaluate Rasmea’s condition as of the present, but never had offered an opinion as to Rasmea’s condition at the time she signed the immigration forms in 1994 and 2003. Only the time of signing is relevant, and on that issue Rasmea’s expert is silent. (2) Rasmea’s expert is a clinical psychologist, not a forensic psychologist. As such, she is not qualified to offer a diagnosis based on legally acceptable analysis, even if she is qualified to opine on the treatment for someone suffering PTSD or other disorders.
The prosecution brief far out-classes the defense brief, but that doesn’t guarantee a particular outcome.
Prosecution Theory of Rasmea’s Incentive To Lie About Being Tortured into Confessing
There is one aspect of the prosecution’s brief, however, that was particularly interesting. It had to do with what a new trial would look like if Rasmea were able to present the expert. That would force the prosecution to challenge Rasmea’s claims that her confessions were induced by torture, and to present evidence of an incentive to lie.
The prosecution argues at pp. 49-51 (bold in original, red lettering added):
In order to lay the foundation for Dr. Fabri’s opinion that the defendant has PTSD as a result of torture in Israel, Odeh will necessarily have to elicit a significant amount of other testimony as to her treatment in Israel 45 years ago, all of which the government would strongly controvert.5
As a result, a new trial which admitted such PTSD evidence would quickly devolve into a dispute regarding collateral issues, such as the nature of defendant’s interrogation in 1969; whether she had been a member of a designated terrorist organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); and whether she had in fact confessed voluntarily in Israel to the crimes with which she indisputably had been charged. To illustrate this point, consider the following types of evidence the government would seek to introduce to rebut the defendant’s claim of torture:
• Evidence the Defendant Was a Member of the Terrorist Group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. If Defendant Odeh were permitted to offer evidence of torture, the door would be open to the government proving her motive to falsely claim it. This, or course, would necessitate proof that Odeh in fact was a member of the PFLP (the group responsible for the Supersol bombing) and had participated in the bombing. To do this, the government would offer several different pieces of evidence.6
• Evidence of the Defendant’s Motive to Falsely Claim Torture. While at first blush it might seem unlikely that someone would falsely claim, over a period of more than forty years to have been tortured, Odeh in fact has a strong motivation to do so. Terrorist groups routinely train their operatives, in the event of capture, to claim torture. As noted, Odeh’s membership in the PFLP and role in the bombing would serve to establish her motive for falsely claiming torture, because by confessing and causing the arrests of numerous confederates she undermined the mission of the PFLP. For example, according to testimony during her trial in Israel, the defendant compromised the PFLP by providing the names of more than 80 terrorists who were then arrested by Israeli officials.7
• Evidence That the Defendant’s Statements Regarding Torture Were Not True. Dr. Fabri’s testimony would open the door to the government directly proving that Odeh’s version of her claimed torture cannot be true. Such evidence would be critical to undermining Dr. Fabri’s opinion (which is based exclusively on the defendant’s self-reported claim of torture). For example, Odeh claims that in her presence, her father was beaten and told that he would be made to rape her. However, on March 10, 1969, Defendant’s father, Yusef Odeh, an American citizen, was interviewed while in custody in Israel by the U.S. Consul General. See generally Docket Entry 161, Government’s Sentencing Memorandum at 14, Page ID 1724. Defendant claims the torture had begun the night of her arrest, February 28-March 1, well before the Consul’s interview of Yusef Odeh. The American Consul General sent a diplomatic cable to Washington in which he detailed his interview of Yusef Odeh. Among other things, the Consul General wrote that “Odeh states that police have questioned him very little since arrest,” and that Yusef “Odeh complains of uncomfortable, overcrowded jail conditions, but he apparently receiving no rpt [repeat] no worse than standard treatment afforded majority detainees at Jerusalem jail.” Id.
That second bullet point, highlighted in red, is something I’ve thought about and even mentioned to a few people, though I haven’t written about it.
We know, for a fact, that Rasmea confessed the day after arrest, and signed multiple confessions in the first 10 days. Based on that fact, I surmised that Rasmea made up the 25-day claim because, as one of if not the first female military members of the PFLP, she had a high status and tough profile. Yet the Israeli records also indicate that she was an easy nut to crack, and confessed as soon as she realized others were confessing (the so-called “prisoner’s dilemma“).
So, it’s entirely possible she exaggerated how long it took her to confess and the conditions under which she confessed, so as not to damage her status in the terror organization and among her terrorist compatriots.
I can’t prove that theory, but the government filing demonstrates some additional evidence as to an incentive to lie. Not only did Rasmea confess quickly, she also ratted out others according to the government:
by confessing and causing the arrests of numerous confederates she undermined the mission of the PFLP. For example, according to testimony during her trial in Israel, the defendant compromised the PFLP by providing the names of more than 80 terrorists who were then arrested by Israeli officials.7
That footnote 7 provides:
7 “[S]he [the defendant] provided names of others related to the network such as Ali Kassim, Aliya Khuri, the Attorney Bashir Alhiri the attorney, Abdel Hafiz Jaber, and the following day of Yakub Odeh, who is her cousin. . . During the same week of investigation the incident in the cafeteria in East Jerusalem took place. Thanks to her we’ve also gotten to the cafeteria, because she knew of the plans before getting arrested and she provided the names of the people who may have carried it out. She cooperated with me throughout the travels. She worked with me for 6 days of oral interrogation. Led me to places. Thanks to her we’ve arrested over 80 people; Shkhem, Ramallah as well as Hebron, Bet-Lehem and the whole (West) Bank[.]” See Israeli Trial Transcript, Bates Number 721.
And there you go. Rasmea not only confessed to her own crimes, she helped the Israelis roll-up a terrorist network.
The government theory is that Rasmea had to avoid being seen as someone who capitulated quickly and ratted out other terrorists. That would both damage her esteem in the eyes of other PFLP members and perhaps expose her to potential harm.