Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 67, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Thursday for immigration fraud for failing to tell US authorities that she had been jailed in Israel for a 1969 supermarket bombing in which she murdered two Israeli students, Leon Kanner and Eddie Joffe.
She had been found guilty of immigration fraud in a Detroit federal court last November, with federal prosecutors noting she failed to reveal her criminal history when she immigrated from Jordan in 1995, and again when she was naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2004.
U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain handed down the sentence in a packed courtroom, calling Odeh a liar and a terrorist. Additionally, the judge revoked Odeh's American citizenship. She will be deported at the conclusion of her sentence.
Odeh served ten years in an Israeli jail for the bombing before being released in a prisoner swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). In court, she claimed she had been "tortured" into confession for the 1969 bombing, but federal prosecutors noted she had confessed to being part of the attack decades later to a pro-Palestinian academic, the Chicago Sun Times reported.
Before the sentencing, Odeh told Drain, "I'm not a terrorist, I'm not a bad woman." But the judge said she had been tried for lying under oath. "We in this country expect people to tell the truth about things, especially under oath," Drain said.
"You lied under oath," Drain said. "She was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. I think she was involved in some terrorist activity." He also claimed that she seemed to be a "changed person."
Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of five to seven years, a stricter term than the federal guidelines for immigration fraud, given Odeh's terrorist past.
"The civilized world currently is struggling with the issue of ‘foreign fighters’ who go to Syria, Iraq and other places for terrorist training and then fight on behalf of ISIS (Islamic State) and other designated terrorist organizations, and who often then return home,” prosecutors Jonathan Tukel and Mark Jebson argued.
However, the judge did not accede to this request, and noted that the sentence was “right in the middle” of of the recommended 15 to 21 months for her crime of not disclosing on her immigration and citizenship forms if she had ever been arrested or convicted in a crime.
Odeh's attorney, Michael Deutsch, told the Detroit Free Press after the sentencing that he will appeal the sentence. "It was excessive," Deutsch said. "She's not a terrorist. She was fighting for freedom" against what he called a "brutal occupation that continues today."
Odeh lived in the United States for almost 20 years and served as associate director of the Chicago-based Arab American Action Network.