BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter
A federal judge who has raised more than $3 million for a pro-Israeli charity should not be allowed to handle the terrorism-related trial of a Palestinian immigrant, lawyers for a Southwest suburban woman say.
Activist Rasmieh Odeh, 66, of Evergreen Park, is due to stand trial in Detroit in September on charges she hid the 10 years she spent in an Israeli prison from federal authorities when she emigrated to the U.S. in 1995.
Odeh was convicted by the Israelis of two terrorist bombings — one of which killed two people — in Jerusalem in 1969, but also failed to acknowledge that fact when she successfully applied for U.S. citizenship in 2005, the feds said when they arrested her in the Chicago-area in October.
Neighbors in her suburban six-flat were shocked at the time to learn at the time of her alleged secret past crimes with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a terrorist Marxist-Leninist organization that also hijacked airplanes.
Now, Odeh’s lawyers say they’ve learned that the judge who was placed in charge of her trial in January, U.S. District Judge Paul Borman, is a major supporter of Israel who “cannot reasonably be said to be impartial.”
Borman and his wife, Marlene, have raised more than $3 million for the Jewish Federation and United Jewish Foundation of Metropolitan Detroit, and also have helped bring hundreds of Israelis to the U.S., Odeh’s lawyer Michael Deutsch wrote in a court filing Tuesday.
Citing documents that show the Jewish Federation in 2007 gave Borman its highest honor, the Fred M. Butzel Award, in part for his lifelong support of Israel, Deutsch argued that Borman should recuse himself because he “believes that Israeli is a great democracy and protector of human rights.”
That means Borman can’t fairly evaluate Odeh’s defense — that she was tortured and raped by Israeli authorities following her 1969 arrest, Deutsch says.
Odeh was still suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of that abuse when she filled out the U.S. immigration forms at the heart of her pending trial, Deutsch argues.
Prosecutors want Borman to ban Odeh from making that argument at trial. They oppose Odeh’s attempts to have Borman step aside, but have not filed a response and declined to comment Tuesday.
Borman also declined to comment.
Odeh remains free on bond in the Chicago area. Her arrest by the Department of Homeland Security was hailed last year by the Anti-Defamation League, but provoked outrage among pro-Palestinian campaigners in Chicago, who accused prosecutors of attempting to “repress” anti-Israeli protests.
Odeh faces up to 10 years in a U.S. prison, followed by deportation, if convicted.