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Irvine 11 used 'heckler's veto' on Israeli ambassador, D.A. says

September 19, 2011 | 12:26 pm

Muslim students

The prosecution began its closing statements Monday in the so-called Irvine 11 case in which a group of Muslim students are charged with disrupting an Israeli ambassador's speech at UC Irvine.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner said the students’ protest trampled Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s right to free speech.

"This is about a heckler's veto," Wagner said. "This is about freedom of speech. This is why we're all here.”

The prosecutor said there are rules that govern society, pulling up the phrases "behave yourselves" and "Be civil Be appropriate" on a PowerPoint presentation for jurors.

"Yes, protesters have a longstanding tradition on campuses — we all know that," Wagner said, adding that the law also protects a "marketplace of ideas."

"Truth will win in a competitive atmosphere. To commit censorship breaks down that marketplace," he said.

The Orange County courtroom was packed with about 200 spectators, including parents, student supporters, interfaith community members and teachers, filling every seat. More were turned away.

In his instructions to the jury, Judge Peter J. Wilson asked that jurors consider each of the 10 defendants individually, not holding any evidence presented against one against another.

Prosecutors originally filed charges this year against 11 UCI and UC Riverside students after the students repeatedly interrupted Oren's speech Feb. 8, 2010, shouting, "Michael Oren, propagating murder is not free speech," among other things.

Criminal charges were tentatively dismissed against one student, Hakim Nasreddine Kebir, who was expected to complete 40 hours of community service at a Costa Mesa soup kitchen.

The 10 students are charged with two misdemeanors of conspiracy to willfully commit a crime and disrupt a public meeting. They face up to six months in jail if convicted.

The defense has set yet to give its closing remarks in the case.


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-- Lauren Willliams

Twitter: @lawilliams30

Photo: The Irvine 11, which now numbers 10, in court. Credit: Associated Press