AMP staffers reject plea deal in Friedman nomination protest arrest

March 30, 2017

AMP staffers Taher Herzallah and Kareem El-Hosseiny have rejected a plea deal and have asked for a trial stemming from their arrest at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel. The two have been charged with unlawful conduct/disrupting Congress. They appeared in DC Superior Court for arraignment on Tuesday, March 28.

During the Friedman hearing, both men stood with Palestinian flags and interrupted Friedman as he tried to speak. They demanded the committee not approve the nomination. “Palestinians will always be here,” Herzallah shouted as he was led away by Capitol Police. The protest was captured by the media and went viral. Members of Code Pink and If Not Now also protested and were arrested.

Herzallah and El-Hosseiny -- the only two Arabs in the group of six protesters who were arrested on Feb. 16 -- were also the only two charged with a misdemeanor. Three white Jewish protesters were allowed to pay a small fine the same day. One white Jewish protester had his case transferred to traffic court. The two AMP staffers were the only two facing criminal charges in DC Superior Court filed against them by the U.S. Attorney’s office. 

“All of us were detained at the same time for doing the same thing,” Herzallah said. “So why were we charged with misdemeanors and the others were not? We feel discriminated against, disappointed in the system and that’s why we rejected the government’s plea deal. We want the judge to decide the case.”

The case, which actually may become a jury trial, is set for April 20. They are represented by Ann Wilcox of the National Lawyers Guild. They face a maximum penalty of $500 and up to six months in jail.