Appeal filed in Irvine 11 free-speech case

Jan. 27, 2013 at 10:23 AM

IRVINE, Calif., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Attorneys for a group of Muslim college students known as the Irvine 11 filed an appeal of their conviction in California over a noisy anti-Israel protest.

Ten of the 11 students contend the state law against disrupting public meetings was overly vague and violated their constitutional right to free speech.

The Irvine 11 were charged with conspiring to disrupt a 2010 speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren at the University of California, Irvine.

The appeal filed in Orange County Superior Court argued the law took away their right to express their views as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"The idea that you could stand up in a meeting and make a political statement and that is a crime is absolutely abhorrent to our justice system," said attorney Dan Stormer.

Ten students were convicted and charges against the 11th defendant were dropped after he agreed to perform community service in a soup kitchen, the Los Angeles Times said.

The sentences other 10 were only convicted of misdemeanors and their sentences also included community service and probation.

The prosecutor in the case told the Times the California Supreme Court had earlier upheld the law and he was confident the appeal would be rejected. "Furthermore, their behavior is not the type of behavior or conduct that is protected by the First Amendment," he added. "The evidence showed they were intent on taking away the ambassador's right to free speech."

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