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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Muslim students who heckled Israeli envoy Oren: We have no regrets

  • Published 11:16 26.09.11
  • Latest update 11:16 26.09.11

10 University of California students convicted of misdemeanor after last year's incident in which they interrupted Oren's speech, shouting 'killers'.

By The Associated Press
Eight of the Muslim students convicted of misdemeanors for disrupting a speech by Israeli ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine last year thanked their supporters at a public meeting in an Anaheim mosque and expressed no regrets for their actions.
Student Mohamed Abdelgany told an audience Sunday at the Islamic Institute of Orange County that while they are upset about the verdict, the activism that brought the eight and two others a sentence of community service and probation is part of higher education, the Orange County Register said.
Abdelgany said their lives would be "hollow shells" if they didn't stand by their principles.
Student Taher Herzallah said her mother feared she would go to jail, and made her promise no protests for a year.
The students' lawyer Reem Salahi told the audience they would appeal.
The students were arrested on February 8, 2010 on their campus after shouting in protest at Oren's speech on U.S.-Israeli security. The students were charged with misdemeanor conspiracy to disturb a meeting and misdemeanor disturbance of a meeting.
The hecklers interrupted Oren's lecture over 10 times, shouting "killers" and "how many Palestinians did you kill?" Oren took a 20 minute break after the fourth protest, only to be interrupted again by young men yelling at him every few minutes, local press reported.
Many members of the audience also applauded Oren. Oren eventually completed his speech, some time later than scheduled, but did not take questions from the audience as planned.
The University of California at Irvine case has stoked an intense debate about freedom of speech. Muslim and civil rights advocates accuse prosecutors of discriminating against students exercising their right to dissent, just as many other college-goers do without punishment.
In June 2010, the University suspended the Muslim student group for one year and placed it on disciplinary probation for an additional year in response to the incident. According to the university's decision, the MSU membership was also required to collectively complete 50 hours of community service.
Eight of the students attended UC Irvine and three others arrested during the incident were from the nearby campus of the University of California, Riverside.
Ambassador Michael Oren
Ambassador Michael Oren.
Photo by: Natasha Mozgovaya

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