DETROIT — A Detroit federal judge withdrew Tuesday from the case of a Palestinian immigrant accused of lying about her role in a fatal terrorist attack, saying he just learned his family had an investment in the Jerusalem supermarket she helped bomb in 1969.
U.S. District Judge Paul Borman issued an order recusing himself from the immigration fraud case against Rasmieh Odeh. The 67-year-old, also known as Rasmea Yousef, is associate director at the Arab American Action Network in Chicago. A hearing before Judge Gershwin Drain was scheduled for Sept. 2.
An Israeli military court convicted her for two bombings, one of which killed two men at a SuperSol store. She spent 10 years in prison before Israel released her in a prisoner swap with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Borman, who is Jewish, refused an earlier request by Odeh's lawyers that he step down from the case on the basis of his long history of involvement with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and his likely contacts with the Israeli military and its court system.
But Borman said that federal prosecutors gave him additional information Monday on the Israeli bombing case against Odeh that made him change his mind.
"Yesterday, the government provided the court with an English translation of the Israeli indictment," he wrote in his order Tuesday. "The Israeli indictment ... charges defendant Rasmieh Odeh and two co-defendants with involvement in the plan to place 'explosives in the hall of the SuperSol in Jerusalem.'"
"At the time of the 1969 bombing, my family had a passive financial investment connection to SuperSol," the judge wrote. "There was no family involvement in the operations of SuperSol. Further, there is no present family passive financial investment connection to SuperSol."
Borman's family owned the former Detroit-based Farmer Jack grocery chain.
The judge said he remains confident he could continue treating Odeh fairly but said his family's investment "could be perceived as establishing a reasonably objective inference of a lack of impartiality in the context of the issues presented in this case."
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.
Her lawyer, Michael Deutsch, has said Odeh's mental state when she applied to enter the U.S. from Jordan in 1994 and sought citizenship in 2004 could become an issue at trial.
Deutsch told the Chicago Sun-Times that Borman did the right thing and said he was "not surprised" to learn that the judge had more ties to Israel than previously disclosed.
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