Monday, February 15, 2010

Human Rights: Irvine 11 charges - the right to freely express one's opinions is a most sacred freedom protected by our Constitution

The Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA) and the Los Angeles office of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG-LA) on Friday sent a letter to University of California, Irvine (UCI) Chancellor Michael V. Drake urging him to drop charges against 11 students who peacefully protested at a UCI-sponsored event. A letter was also sent today to the Orange County District Attorney's office by CAIR-LA.

Earlier this week, the students spoke out during the speech of the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren at the event, which was also co-sponsored by the UCI School of Law and by the university's political science department. The students, since dubbed the "Irvine 11," left in a voluntary and peaceful manner and were then detained briefly and cited by UCI police officers.

VIDEO: Protesters Disrupt Israeli Ambassador Speech at UCI

In a letter sent to the university administration, CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush and NLG-LA Executive Director James Lafferty stated in part:

"…the right to freely express one's opinions is a most sacred freedom protected by our Constitution, finding college campuses to be its most cultivating venue. Civil protest against government abuses is a time-honored tradition that has led to the end of apartheid and the birth of civil rights. …

"The students voiced political views to shame the representative of a foreign government embroiled in controversy for its outrageous violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Delivering this message in a loud and shocking manner expressed the gravity of the charges leveled against Israeli policies, and falls within the purview of protected speech."

In the letter to the district attorney's office, Ayloush stated in part:

"The selective application of laws by off-campus law enforcement agencies to students engaged in constitutionally-protected political speech will be viewed by the American Muslim community and those who value free speech as an attempt to repress legitimate student protest and will undermine this important First Amendment Right."

The letters to the university administration and the district attorney's office urged that the "charges and disciplinary actions against the students involved be dropped."

Representatives of CAIR-LA have been in touch with the students, their parents, and many community members who have expressed concerns that the university's actions amount to retribution against and intimidation of students for expressing dissenting political views. CAIR-LA has also been in touch with Chancellor Drake since Monday's incident to share the Muslim community's free speech concerns.

Source: Council on American-Islamic Relations

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