Defense makes closing statements in 'Irvine 11' Muslim student protest case

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.
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. Alex Gallardo/AP

The defense began closing arguments Monday in the trial of 10 students accused of disrupting a UC Irvine speech by Israel’s ambassador to the United States.

Defense attorneys argue the students’ actions during a speech by Ambassador Michael Oren was lawful and typical protest. Ten students stood up, one by one, and shouted scripted statements as Oren tried to speak.

Lawyers told the jury that while the students planned the protests, they didn’t plan to break the law, and so didn’t have the legally required intention for the charge of misdemeanor conspiracy to disrupt a meeting. The defense also argued there was no “substantial interference” to merit the misdemeanor charge of actual disruption of a meeting.

Defense attorneys played video that showed the students’ statements took up only about three minutes of the event. Ambassador Oren was able to deliver his 25-minute speech.

Prosecutors call the students’ protest an illegal “heckler’s veto” intended to quash free expression. If convicted, the students face up to a year in jail. The defense expects to finish its closing by noon.

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