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'Irvine 11': Mother of student taught him to 'express your mind'

September 23, 2011 | 12:16 pm

Irvine 11 students
The mother of one of the 10 Muslim students found guilty Friday of disrupting an Israeli diplomat's speech said after the verdict was read that her son, Khahid Bahgat Akari, was innocent.

Lina Akari, 45, of Murrieta, said she trusted the United States' court system and raised her son to relish the right to free speech.

"I taught him that you can express your mind," she said. "I don't understand what happened.

PHOTOS: 'Irvine 11' trial

"I said here you can have freedom of speech," she continued. "And look what happened."

The students were found guilty of two misdemeanors to conspire and then disrupt a February 2010 speech by the Israeli ambassador to the United States at the UC Irvine campus.

The trial centered on conflicting views of who was being censored.

Prosecutors argued that Ambassador Michael Oren was “shut down” when his speech was interrupted by students who took turns shouting preplanned phrases in a crowded UC Irvine ballroom.

Six defense attorneys argued that the students, seven from UC Irvine and three from UC Riverside, were only following the norm of other college protests and were being singled out.


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-- Nicole Santa Cruz in Santa Ana

Photo: Some of the defendants in the so-called Irvine 11 case in court on Monday. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press