CHICAGO — An Arab-American community activist from the Chicago suburbs was arrested Tuesday on immigration charges for allegedly lying about her conviction for a deadly bombing more than 40 years ago in Israel.
Rasmieh Yousef Odeh, 66, spent a decade in an Israeli prison for her involvement in a 1969 attack that involved bombs planted at a crowded Jerusalem supermarket and a British consulate, according to a federal indictment. Only one bomb — one of two placed at the supermarket — exploded, killing the two people and wounding several others. Israeli authorities have said the attacks were planned by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
An Israeli military court sentenced Odeh to life in prison in 1970, but she was released 10 years later in a prisoner exchange with the Popular Front. Israel released 76 prisoners in exchange for an Israeli soldier captured in Lebanon, according to Odeh’s indictment.
But U.S. authorities accuse Odeh of failing to mention her conviction and time in prison on immigration papers when she came to the U.S. from Jordan in 1995 and before she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2004, the indictment says.
Odeh was arrested Tuesday morning at her home in Evergreen Park, just southwest of Chicago, according to prosecutors. She moved to the Chicago area shortly after gaining citizenship in Detroit in 2004, said Khaalid Walls, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Her defense attorney James Fennerty said Odeh has been a close friend of his for years and he never discussed her conviction in Israel or the 10 years she spent in prison.
“I never really asked her,” he said. “She’s one of the nicest people. ... She’s always caring. She’s not a threat to anyone.”
Odeh works as an associate director at the Arab American Action Network, a Chicago-area nonprofit group that advocates for new immigrants and tries to combat anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudice, according to its director, Hatem Abudayyeh.
According to the network’s website, Odeh has a law degree and has worked as a lawyer.