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'Irvine 11' defense attorneys call the students patriots

September 20, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Irvine 11 defendants2

As the so-called Irvine 11 trial in Santa Ana wound down Tuesday, defense attorneys said the 10 students accused of illegally protesting an Israeli diplomat's speech were patriotic defenders of the Constitution.

In closing arguments, the lawyers likened their clients to Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Cesar Chavez for what the defense described as a legal form of civil disobedience at UC Irvine last year.

The Muslim students "are serving our society with their conscience," said Jacqueline Goodman, one of six defense attorneys.

She said the students left plenty of time for Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren to finish his speech after they were escorted out of the ballroom. Oren did complete his address -- on U.S.-Israeli relations -- but cut out a planned question-and-answer session.

Lisa Holder, another defense lawyer, said the students' shouted comments at Oren were certainly not polite but were protected by the First Amendment.

The students are on trial, she said, because of what they expressed -- criticism of Israel’s position regarding Palestinians -- not for interrupting Oren.

"Ultimately what was disruptive was the message," Holder said, calling for acquittal.

"Ultimately you may be what stands between democracy and creeping fascism," she told the jury.

The seven UC Irvine and three UC Riverside students are being tried on misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to commit a crime and disrupting a public meeting. They face up to six months in jail if convicted.

Closing arguments continue this afternoon.


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Photo: Defense lawyers and their clients make contact Monday before the start of closing arguments in the students' trial in Santa Ana. Credit: Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press