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Irvine 11 D.A.'s closing statement branded 'political theater'

September 19, 2011 |  2:11 pm


This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Leaders of various groups gathered for a news conference outside the Santa Ana Courthouse on Monday afternoon to condemn the actions of the Orange County district attorney's office in the case of the so-called Irvine 11.

Shakeed Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, called the closing statements of the prosecutor "political theater."

"We patiently wait for the verdict and for justice to prevail," he said.

Others present at the news conference included representatives from the L.A. Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Institute of Orange County.

Monday morning, prosecutor Dan Wagner argued before jurors that the "right to free speech is not absolute."

He said the students, who interrupted a speech last year by Micheal Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, violated the 1st Amendment by substantially limiting Oren's ability to communicate his ideas.

Wagner said censorship of ideas breaks down a free exchange of information.

"Who is the censor in this case?" he asked the jury. "Right there -- 10 of them."

He was referring to the students, seven of them from UC Irvine and three from UC Riverside, who are accused of conspiring to disrupt Oren's speech and of disrupting his speech, both misdemeanors. Charges against an 11th defendant were dropped pending completion of community service.

The defense will make closing arguments in the case Monday afternoon.

For the record, 10:26 p.m. Sept. 19: A previous version of ths post referred to the Islamic Institute of Orange County as the Islamic Center of Orange County.


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Photo: College students Aminah Rahman, 20, left, and Sarah Assaf, 19, show their support for the so-called Irvine 11 outside the Central Justice Center. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times