You remember our cover story earlier this month on the unsolved assassination of Arab-American activist Alex Odeh? Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez sure does. On Friday, she wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting an update on the case while offering to host a closed briefing on it with her department.
“If the FBI knowingly admits that this is the oldest open counter-terrorism investigation they have on file, then we must ensure that justice delayed will not be justice denied,” Sanchez wrote Lynch. “The Odeh family deserves closure.”
Two years ago, Sanchez, alongside Congressman John Conyers, requested a hearing on the investigation for the first time since 1986. Earlier that summer, she wrote then-Attorney General Eric Holder about getting an update on the Odeh case but nothing happened. Sanchez attached her still-unanswered questions to Holder in the new Lynch letter.
Over the weekend, the ADC's Orange County chapter kept Odeh's memory alive at their annual banquet named for him. The Odeh family, ADC members and community members gathered at the Sheraton Hotel in Anaheim Saturday night. For the moment of silence, Dr. Jihad Racy played the same hauntingly beautiful melody on the ney, an Arabic wind instrument, that he did at Odeh's funeral in Orange thirty years ago.
Susan Odeh, Alex's youngest daughter, spoke on behalf of the family. She was a one-year-old baby at time of her father's death and has no memory of him. But she did share how when her mother watched The Love Boat, she ran to the television mistaking Captain Stubing for her dad since they both shared shiny bald heads.
Things took a more serious tone near the end of her speech. “I do not hope it takes another 30 years to find justice,” Susan said. “My father deserved to live.”
Ahead of the 30th anniversary of Odeh's murder, the FBI sent out a press release reminding the public that the case remains open and that a million-dollar reward is still being offered for information leading to arrests for the crime. David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's LA field office, took it a step further by attending and speaking at the banquet.
“I want you to rest assured that this is not political for us,” Bowdich said to the audience. He acknowledged “communication gaps” but pledged to continue meeting with the Odeh family. Bowdich says the FBI is trying new techniques to get closer to the truth of what happened, but couldn't elaborate beyond that. “We will continue until we get a resolution to this case.”
The search for answers doesn't stop with Sanchez's letter, promises by the FBI, or the banquet. The ADC's national office in Washington D.C. is planning for an advocacy day on November 16 for the Odeh family to meet members of the judiciary committee.
“This in an open wound for the family and for the community as a whole,” says ADC National President Samer Khalaf. “We cannot start the healing process until we know what happened.”
The audio below is from a February 13, 1986 KPFK radio documentary on Alex Odeh meticulously digitized by Mark Torres of the Pacifica Radio Archives. It aired earlier this month as part of their From The Vault show that I guest hosted.
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Gabriel San Román is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and the tallest Mexican in OC. He also once stood falsely accused of writing articles on Turkish politics in exchange for free food from DönerG’s!