Jewish group protests Muslim charges

Feb. 8, 2011 at 12:16 PM
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IRVINE, Calif., Feb. 8 (UPI) -- A Jewish organization is urging prosecutors to drop criminal charges against Muslim students who disrupted a speech by Israel's ambassador to the United States.

Eleven Muslim students are facing conspiracy charges for disrupting the Israeli ambassador's speech at a California campus a year ago.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said he filed the criminal case Friday because the incident at the University of California at Irvine was an "organized (attempt) to squelch the speaker," the Los Angeles Times reported.

The district attorney accuses the students of planning their action with other Muslim Student Union members in person and by e-mail in advance.

When he spoke at UC Irvine Feb. 8, 2010, Ambassador Michael Oren was shouted down repeatedly until police ejected the hecklers.

The Jewish Voice for Peace said two of its members will deliver a petition Wednesday to Rackauckas signed by more than 5,000 Jews who say they had also interrupted a speaker or an event to make a political point, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Monday. It asks Rackauckas to "charge them too" if the case goes forward.

The university suspended the Muslim Student Union, which denied planning to block the speech, in a rare sanction against a student group for reasons other than hazing or alcohol abuse. Individual students were also disciplined.

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