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Jury selection begins in ‘Irvine 11’ student protest case

August 30, 2011 |  8:50 am

Jury selection begins in 'Irvine 11' case

Jury selection began Monday in the case against 10 students charged with misdemeanors for allegedly taking part in a protest against Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at UC Irvine last year.

Prospective jurors were asked a variety of questions in an eight-page questionnaire, including whether they studied at UC Irvine, if their association with the school would affect their ability to be fair and impartial and if they are familiar with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Daily Pilot reported.

Other questions included whether jurors support the Israeli or Palestinian side in the conflict, their feelings toward the state of Israel and if they harbor any negative feelings toward Muslims.

About 300 jurors filled out the questionnaire, and about 150 people filled the courtroom before and after lunch to receive jury instructions.

The Orange County district attorney chose to file misdemeanor charges originally against 11 students in February of this year after a grand jury investigation last summer presented its findings.

On Feb. 8, 2010, Oren spoke in front of hundreds, and was repeatedly interrupted by the so-called "Irvine 11," who periodically stood up and shouted during his talk.

Charges against Hakim Nasreddine Kebir, one of the original 11 defendants, were tentatively dropped in July, the district attorney announced, pending Kebir's completion of 40 hours of community service at a Costa Mesa soup kitchen.

Among the handful of people at Monday's jury selection proceedings was Salam Al-Marayati, of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Al-Marayati said any punishment the students should face would be best coming from the university, rather than district attorney.

The students -- from UC Irvine and UC Riverside -- face up to six months in jail if convicted.


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Photo: College students protest earlier this year in front of the offices of the Orange County district attorney against charges being brought against the 11 students who interrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.  Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times