Mosques in Southern California sponsored prayer services in support of 10 students going on trial for interrupting a university speech last year by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren.
The students from the University of California, Irvine and the University of California, Riverside are set to go on trial Monday. Each is charged with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of a meeting. If convicted, each student could face a sentence of up to a year in jail or lesser punishments, including probation with community service and fines.
Charges against an eleventh student were dropped earlier this month.
During Oren’s Feb. 8, 2010 speech at UC Irvine, the 11 defendants stood one by one and shouted at the ambassador, calling him a “mass murderer” and a “war criminal,” among other insults. The disruptions, organized to protest Israeli actions in Gaza, prompted Oren to walk off the stage twice.
Eight of the defendants were students at UC Irvine and were members of the Muslim Student Union, which was suspended by the university for a year. The others attended the University of California, Riverside.
“There is no question that these students are being treated like criminals because they’re Muslim,” Kifah Shah, spokesperson for the Stand with the Eleven Campaign, said in a statement on the group’s website. The organization also is signing up supporters to attend each court session.