Closing arguments wrap up in 'Irvine 11' Muslim student protest case

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Alex Gallardo/AP

Some of the so-called 'Irvine 11' who are accused of disrupting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. at the University of California, at Irvine.

Prosecutors Monday finished their closing arguments in the trial of Muslim students accused of disrupting Israel's ambassador to the United States Michael Oren's speech at UC Irvine.

An Orange County prosecutor described the students’ disruptive behavior as nothing more than a strategically-planned and illegal “heckler’s veto” intended to quash an exchange of ideas.

During closing arguments, Deputy District Attorney Dan Wagoner reviewed with the jury email messages the charged students exchanged.

The prosecutor also referred to video footage of the Feb. 2010 speech by Oren. During that event, 11 students from UC Irvine and UC Riverside stood up, one by one, and shouted scripted statements at the ambassador during his talk on relations between the U.S. and Israel, effectively shutting down the event. Authorities escorted the students out of the event.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has charged the students with misdemeanor charges of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and disturbance of a meeting.

Prosecutors call the students’ outbursts illegal “disruptions.” Defense attorneys for the students have argued that the constitutional guarantee of free expression protects their actions during the speech.

Some observers, including those who disapprove of the students’ protest, have questioned the district attorney’s decision to prosecute the case and called it a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The court has dropped charges against one of the students. If a jury convicts them, the remaining 10 students face up to a year in jail.

The defense is scheduled to begin its closing arguments this afternoon.

This story has been updated.

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