Federal prosecutors want to travel to the Middle East to question two women who previously have acknowledged helping Rasmieh Odeh bomb a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 along with the British Consulate. The supermarket bombing killed two college students, Leon Kanner and Edward Joffe.
Odeh failed to disclose her conviction in Israeli court and her resulting 10 years in an Israeli prison when she applied for naturalization as an American citizen in 2004.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism examined Odeh's terrorist history and the heroic treatment she enjoys among Palestinian activists in a five-part video series, "Spinning a Terrorist Into a Victim."
She was convicted of naturalization fraud in 2014, but won a new trial after arguing the court improperly kept out testimony supporting her claim that her incorrect answers on immigration papers resulted from post-traumatic stress caused by torture while in Israeli custody.
The claim is unsubstantiated, but defense and prosecution psychologists who examined Odeh say that she does exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress.
Prosecutors responded with a superseding indictment placing greater emphasis on Odeh's membership in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which carried out the 1969 bombings. Membership in a terrorist organization, let alone a conviction for a terrorist act, is sufficient to deny immigrants a visa or to reject a naturalization application.
Aisha Odeh and Rasheda Obideh, in separate videos available online, talked about helping Rasmieh Odeh in the 1969 bombings, prosecutors wrote in a motion filed Tuesday. Aisha Odeh (who is not related to Rasmieh Odeh) admitted placing the supermarket bomb after scouting the store with Rasmieh. Obideh made similar statements in another video," the prosecution brief said.
The women "have uniquely relevant testimony," prosecutors argued. But to get to them, they need the court's consent and cooperation from the Palestinian Authority.
If the motion is granted, prosecutors and defense attorneys would travel abroad and then determine whether the statements provided should be shown to the jury.
Their testimony has added significance, prosecutors said, because of new federal case law in the Sixth Circuit, which covers Detroit – the site of Odeh's trial. In a ruling since Odeh's 2014 trial, the Sixth Circuit ruled that a jury can consider factors such as "good moral character" and involvement in terrorism in naturalization fraud cases.
The Palestinian women "have highly material testimony because they have personal knowledge of the defendant's involvement in terrorist activity and the defendant's membership and association with a terrorist organization. These topics are directly relevant to the charges in the first superseding indictment," prosecutors wrote.
The trial is scheduled to take place in mid-May. Tuesday was the deadline for pre-trial motions.
In other filings, prosecutors requested an anonymous jury and other measures meant to keep the jury from being influenced by Odeh's supporters who protest outside of court each day. They also asked the court to bar the defense from claiming Odeh is being subjected to a selective or "political" prosecution.
Defense attorneys asked that all the Israeli evidence showing Odeh's connection to the 1969 be kept out of the trial, along with the U.S. government's designation of the PFLP as a terrorist group.