Students convicted, receive probation; vow to appeal
(CHICAGO 09/23/2011) – Although they will receive no jail time, the American Muslims for Palestine is deeply disappointed that a jury found 10 university students guilty of disrupting a public meeting for their protest against Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in February 2010. The students received three years' probation, which will be reduced to one year if they complete 56 hours of community service by Jan. 2, 2012.
Despite the setback, however, AMP is calling on all its supporters to continue to stand with the Irvine 11 and all those who advocate for Palestine.
“We’re asking people to stand up for civil rights, no matter the verdict today,” said Marya Bangee, spokesperson for the Stand With the Eleven campaign. “It is our duty as American citizens. …It’s clear the students were shut down because of the content of their speech.”
Supporters and defense lawyers still contend that the arrests, charges and trial were the result of anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bias. In fact, early in the proceedings an Orange County judge removed three districts attorney and the lead investigator from the case because of their anti-Muslim bias.
Defense attorneys stated at a press conference outside the Orange County courthouse they will be appealing the verdict, Bangee told AMP.
“We are pleased that the judge in this case saw fit to not impose a jail sentence because he recognized the students are productive members of society and were motivated by their political beliefs,” said Dr. Hatem Bazian, AMP chairman and professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “We have confidence in the American legal system and that justice ultimately will prevail in this case, even if it is delayed. We call on all of Palestine’s supporters to prepare for a long legal battle and political fight.”
Taher Herzallah, one of the students convicted, is an AMP employee.
The verdict came after two days of closing arguments that centered on whether protests, which disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, were protected under the First Amendment.
Oren gave a speech at University of California, Irvine in February 2010. The students stood up individually during his talk to shout out a fact about Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. Then, each walked out peacefully from the auditorium with a university security officer. Oren left the stage a short time but he was able to finish his speech.
The university punished the Irvine campus Muslim Student Union, to which most protestors belonged, by suspending it for one semester and placing it on probation, according to published reports. Eleven students eventually were arrested and charged with conspiracy to disrupt a public meeting and with disrupting a public meeting. They faced up to six months in jail.
The statutes under which the students were tried have been used only two other times in the history of the United States, Bangee said.
Charges were dropped against one student who is performing community service. The remaining 10 opted for a jury trial.
Zionist organizations have pumped up their push on college campuses in order to stifle any discussion of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, they have successfully lobbied the U.S. Department of Justice to reinterpret Title VI of the Civil Rights Act so that now a university’s federal funding potentially could be lost for allowing pro-Palestinian activities and lectures.
AMP encourages its supporters to continue to stand in solidarity with the Irvine 11 as they appeal this decision. AMP also encourages donations to the Muslim Legal Fund of America, which represented the 10 defendants. Donate here. For more information on the Irvine 11, click here.