Rasmea claims PTSD caused her to falsely answer immigration questions, but doesn’t want to submit to mental examination by gov’t expert.
Rasmea Odeh is the Palestinian terrorist group member convicted of the 1969 supermarket bombing in Jerusalem that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner.
Rasmea was released in a prisoner exchange in 1979 for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon. Rasmea eventually made her way to the U.S., where she lied on both her visa and naturalization applications, by falsely stating that she never was convicted of a crime or served time in prison. She told other lies as well, such as not disclosing the time she spent in Lebanon after release from Israeli prison, or that she was a military member of the terrorist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Rasmea became a U.S. citizen in 2004 on the basis of those lies.
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.
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 appealed her conviction, claiming the trial court improperly refused to hold a hearing on whether Rasmea could call an expert witness to testify that Rasmea suffered from PTSD based upon alleged torture by Israelis decades earlier. The theory advanced was that the PTSD caused Rasmea not to understand the simple questions about whether she “EVER” (bold, caps in original immigration form) had been convicted or imprisoned.
The Appeals Court sent the case back to the trial court to hold such a hearing. If the trial court determines that the expert testimony does not pass the stringent federal test for expert testimony, then Rasmea’s conviction stands. If the trial court allows the testimony, the conviction will be vacated and a new trial will be held in January 2017.
Court Orders Mental Examination
The trial court will hold the hearing on expert testimony on November 29, 2016. In advance of that, the prosecution filed a motion to have its own expert conduct a mental examination of Rasmea, as I reported:
- Prosecutors seek mental examination of Rasmea Odeh
- Convicted bomber Rasmea Odeh opposes mental examination in immigration fraud case
- September showdown over convicted bomber Rasmea Odeh’s mental exam in immigration case
Initially the court had set September 22 as the date for argument on the motion for mental examination. However, on August 29 the court issued a ruling (pdf. here) granting the motion without need for court argument. A key portion of the Court order was as follows:
Lastly, Defendant’s assertion that requiring her to be examined by a Government witness will aggravate her symptoms is belied by the numerous occasions Defendant has been able to discuss her history in Jerusalem in the media and elsewhere. Additionally, Defendant was able to be examined by Dr. Fabri during six sessions, totaling eighteen hours in length.
Rasmea’s Motion to Modify Order for Mental Examination
Rasmea’s attorneys have just filed a motion (full embed at bottom of post, pdf. here) asking the Judge to reconsider alleging that the court made a factual error in the Court’s opinion. Specifically, Rasmea argues that she should not have to be examined by a government expert because it would “trigger” her PTSD, and that the court was wrong when the court accepted the government’s argument that Rasmea had spoken of her alleged torture freely in the past.
Here is the key portion of Rasmea’s motion to modify [note: Dr. Fabri is Rasmea’s expert][emphasis added]:
Further, the Defense strongly protests the cynically dismissive, false assertion by the Government— accepted whole cloth by the Court – that the Defendant has freely discussed her torture in the past, and thus is not at risk of ‘retraumatization’ or other, additional harm from such an examination. In fact, the statements cited in the Government’s Reply referred to the bombing case against her in Israel, not her torture. While Ms. Odeh did give an interview shortly after her release from prison almost 40 year ago, she did not speak in detail about her torture, and not at all about the sexual assaults. Ms. Odeh has discussed the specific details of her torture, and specifically about the sexual assaults only with Dr. Fabri.
Dr. Fabri now advises the Court, in her attached Affidavit that the risk of Ms. Odeh suffering substantial further mental and emotional trauma from another examination—particularly from an adversarial figm·e, where the need for safety arid trust will be fundamentally important—is very real….
Dr. Fabri is the first and only one to whom Ms. Odeh has related the details of her prolonged torture including the sexual assaults. And, as Dr. Fabri states, there was a substantial period of trust-building before the examination could begin, and repeated emotional reactions by Ms. Odeh that required breaks and even suspension of one of the sessions….
From this factual assertion, Rasmea’s lawyers argue not only that she should not be examined, but also that if such exam takes place the time should be less than the time Dr. Fabri spent examining Rasmea since several hours of trust building were needed for Dr. Fabri; Rasmea should be accompanied by an emotional support person; and the exam should take place at DePaul Law School, not at the US Attorney’s office.
Given the aggressive tactics of Rasmea supporters, which required a court order of protection for jurors, it can be anticipated that Rasmea supporters would harass any prosecution expert who set foot on campus.
Rasmea U.N. Testimony
When I read the defense motion and the factual representation as to Rasmea only having spoken to Dr. Fabri and no one else about the torture issue, I recalled that Rasmea had testified at the U.N. and was examined by a U.N. medical expert in the late 1970s. It took me a while to track it down, but I found the information.
Rasmea’s testimony was referenced in a widely cited article in The Hill in June 2014 by Joshua Ruebner of the anti-Israel group U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation:
“In 1979, Odeh testified before a UN special committee in Geneva ….”
While there was no link in The Hill article, a Google search turned up evidence of Rasmea’s testimony at the U.N. Ruebner appears to have put together a compilation on Rasmea that references the testimony including excerpts from the U.N. report [full embed at bottom of post, pdf. autodownload here]:
That compilation also referenced Rasmea having undergone a medical exam by a UN doctor:
That compilation contained a link to the full U.N. Report [full embed at bottom of post, also Wayback Machine] that described in details Rasmea’s testimony and also that she was examined by a U.N. doctor:
That full report contains a recitation of Rasmea’s extensive and detailed testimony, starting at paragraph 288 and going on through paragraph 293, and the Medical Exam notes are in Appendix III.
Thus, unless the U.N. Report is fabricated or false as to Rasmea having testified, which seems unlikely, then the U.N. records squarely contradict the key representation in Rasmea’s motion that:
While Ms. Odeh did give an interview shortly after her release from prison almost 40 year ago, she did not speak in detail about her torture, and not at all about the sexual assaults. Ms. Odeh has discussed the specific details of her torture, and specifically about the sexual assaults only with Dr. Fabri.
Even if the U.N. testimony was in writing (there’s no indication of that), it still would be contrary to the defense’s assertion.
It will be interesting to see how the court reacts, since defense counsel was very pejorative towards the judge in its papers, portraying him as a dupe who mindlessly accepted the government’s representations.
There is another aspect of the motion that lacks a reality check. Rasmea testified at the trial, and was instructed by the Judge not to mention the torture allegations as those went to whether she was properly convicted in the Israeli trial, not whether she lied on her immigration forms. Nonetheless, Rasmea was so eager to tell the jury about the torture that she worked it into her testimony in defiance of the Judge, who reprimanded her as I reported in Rasmieh Odeh Defies Judge’s Order, Claims Torture to Jury. That doesn’t strike me as someone who would be “triggered” by having to talk about it in front of strangers.
The government has not yet responded to the motion. We will bring you the government’s position when it is filed.
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