Expert: PTSD may have affected Chicago activist who failed to disclose Israeli bombings to US

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FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2013, file photo, Rasmieh Yousef Odeh stands outside the federal courthouse in Chicago. She is charged with immigration fraud, accused of lying to U.S. immigration officials when she failed to disclose her conviction for a terrorist bombing at a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 that killed two people. Lawyers for Odeh urged a judge Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014, to bar any reference to terrorism at her upcoming trial on immigration charges. Odeh's trial is set for Nov. 4. If convicted, she would lose U.S. citizenship and likely be deported. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

DETROIT — A Chicago Palestinian activist could have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder when she failed to disclose on a U.S. citizenship application that she was convicted of bombings in Israel in 1969, a psychologist testified Tuesday.

Mary Fabri appeared in federal court in Detroit two weeks before Rasmieh Odeh faces trial on immigration charges. There is no dispute that Odeh answered "no" in 2004 to a series of questions about past arrests, charges and convictions.

Fabri, who specializes in talking to war survivors and torture victims, said there's a "strong possibility" that Odeh was considering the questions in a narrow way and believed they applied only to her time in the U.S.

"I found her to be very credible," said Fabri, who added that Odeh has "chronic" PTSD.

U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain heard arguments on several disputes over trial evidence, including whether to allow testimony about Odeh's mental state and whether jurors can hear the word "terrorism." He didn't make any immediate decisions.

Odeh, 66, is associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago. About two dozen supporters filled the courtroom for the three-hour hearing.

Odeh was convicted by an Israeli military court of placing two bombs at a Jerusalem market in 1969. One went off and killed two people. She also was convicted of bombing the British Consulate and served 10 years in prison.

But Odeh checked "no" on immigration forms in Detroit when asked if she had "EVER" been convicted of a crime or spent time in prison.

Fabri said Odeh is mentally scarred by torture by the Israeli military decades ago. Defense attorney Michael Deutsch claims she confessed to the bombings due to torture.

"It's not that they don't remember the past," Fabri said of PTSD victims. "It's automatically kept out unless there's a stressor that weakens the defense."

Separately, Deutsch continued his strategy of attacking Odeh's decades-old convictions, arguing that the Israeli military justice system in the 1960s didn't resemble the U.S. justice system. The judge didn't seem swayed.

"We're not going to retry her case from 40 years ago," Drain said.

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