11 Muslim Students To Be Arraigned On Disturbance Charges

SANTA ANA (AP) — Eleven Muslim students are set to be arraigned Friday on charges of disrupting a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine, in a case that has stoked intense debate about the freedom of speech.

The students are each due in court in Santa Ana on one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one count of misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting.

The students were arrested on Feb. 8, 2010, after shouting in protest at Oren’s speech on U.S.-Israeli security at the Orange County campus, forcing the diplomat to halt his remarks for 20 minutes.

The university revoked the Muslim Student Union’s charter for a quarter and placed it on two years probation.

District Attorney Tony Rackauckas filed charges last month. That prompted a public outcry by Muslim and civil rights advocates who say prosecutors are discriminating against students who were exercising their right to dissent as many other college-goers often do without punishment.

“We believe it is a witch hunt. We believe it is selective prosecution and we believe it is discriminatory prosecution,” said Reem Salahi, one of the attorneys representing the students.

“These types of protests happen all the time and for the district attorney to selectively and criminally prosecute these students is just absurd.”

Eight of the students attended the university in Irvine and three were from the nearby campus of the University of California, Riverside.

Rackauckas has said the protest was a pre-meditated attempt to disrupt Oren’s lecture and infringed on the rights of the 500 to 700 people who had gathered on campus that night to hear him speak.

Prosecutors contend the students planned the protests days ahead of the speech and urged supporters to applaud each time one of them interrupted Oren.

“They’re not being prosecuted for exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. “What they’re being prosecuted for is preventing others from exercising theirs, whether it was the speaker or those who gathered to listen.”

She said the students may appear in court personally, or through an attorney.

If convicted, the students face a sentence ranging from probation with community service and fines to up to six months in jail.

Marya Bangee, a spokeswoman for a coalition of community groups supporting the defendants, said the students have been offered a plea deal but she doesn’t know if they’ll take it.

Bangee said the students all would need to plead guilty in exchange for having a misdemeanor that could be expunged from their records in two years with good behavior.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments

One Comment

  1. Joe says:

    Try this sort of behavior in Iran or one of the other Islamic countries. We would be hearing about their funerals. This country seem to be too soft on this kind of behavior.

    Send them to Gitmo for a couple of years!!! If they are not citizens of the USA, deport them!!!

  2. DAN says:

    ” THIS ” IS WHY WERE HAVING THE HEARINGS.

  3. Bonnie says:

    @ Joe. Iran would love it since they were protesting against a much despised Israeli ! They’d be hailed as heroes there.

    1. Lenny says:

      @ Bonnie

      That’s not what he meant!

  4. Alan C Rhine says:

    “They’re not being prosecuted for exercising their First Amendment rights,” said Susan Kang Schroeder, a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office. “What they’re being prosecuted for is preventing others from exercising theirs, whether it was the speaker or those who gathered to listen.” LISTEN TO ME BUT I DON’T CARE ABOUT YER RIGHTS!!!!!!

  5. Discussion says:

    Every college student that disrupts a speech on any college campus in this country must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

  6. John Pelligrini says:

    They want to express their first amendment rights, stand out side and scream your ass off, don’t take away the rights of people who want to hear the speaker.

  7. izaq says:

    what about when some students protested ahmidinijad speach…
    should we throw them into jail as well?
    i am up for justice. why don’t we make a law that stop anyone from boeing congressman speach, or ambassador from speaking in university.
    in past we have seen several incidence where one or two people will yell to elected officials or dignatories. They are cuffed and released few days later.
    why this da is so harsh on these students?

  8. Lenny says:

    @ izaq

    I hear you but where does it end?
    If they let it go then it just goes on.
    They should get a slap on the wrist in my opinion and that gives a warning to others in the future.

  9. Tyler says:

    as US society moves into dangerous territory of intolerance against muslims. the idea of “america” is great but it is a historical view. the reality of america now is pathetic and filled with blow hard’s like Joe (above) and Yorba Linda Tea Baggers

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