The Irvine 11 are finally set to go on trial this week after months of pre-trial hearings which began in March. The courtroom was packed with media, fellow students of the University of California, and concerned community members of various organizations. Despite the many attempts of the community, Irvine 11 campaign, and defense team to get the charges against the students dropped, the trial is still moving forward and has started this week with jury selection and is expected to last until the end of September.
During the pre-trial hearings, there were multiple attempts for the charges to be dropped against the Irvine 11. The Orange County District Attorney's prosecution of these students is one that has been criticized as
- being unnecessary due to internal university disciplinary actions
- overly harsh and unprecedented
- targeting a Muslim minority
- having political motives
The defense team had tried to get the charges against the Irvine 11 dropped based on the alleged misconduct of the prosecution team in investigating the case and selective prosecution of these students based on their religious beliefs among a few other bases. The judge denied all motions to drop the charges. The community also placed pressure on the DA's office to drop the charges against the Muslim students, many of the efforts headed up by the Irvine 11 campaign team. From letter writing drives to petitions to demonstrations held outside the courthouse, the community was hoping that the DA would get the message and drop the charges or remove himself from the case so that it would advance to the state level.
Another main focus of the pre-trial hearings was the ruling on status of the 4,800 documents that the prosecuting team attained in its investigation. The judge's rulings were mixed, but many of them were favorable for the defense. Some of the documents were ruled as privileged and the judge kept the grand jury transcripts sealed. There was also a gag order issued on both sides in order to protect the students, especially since this case has been receiving so much media attention. Due to the prosecuting team's misconduct in obtaining, reviewing and using the privileged documents which contained sensitive material, the lead investigator and three of the attorneys (including a lead attorney) were removed from the case, even though the defense team had been fighting to get the entire DA's office removed from the case due to misconduct. One of the biggest victories for the Irvine 11 came from some of the documents being ruled as classified. The charges have been tentatively dropped for one of the defendants and the “Irvine 11” has now become the “Irvine 10.” This individual had an exceptional case from the rest of the 10 students, he did not interrupt the speech of the Ambassador and was merely pulled out of a crowd of chanting students who were walking out of the room. Upon his completion of 40 hours of community service, Hakim Kebir will be free of all charges, inshā'Allāh.
Please keep the Irivne 11 in your du‘ā’ and please spread the word about their fight for free speech. Check out the Irvine 11 campaign website: http://www.irvine11.com/and Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Irvine11 for more updates as they come. If you are in the LA area and are interested in attending part of the trial, check out the Irvine 11 website for more details. You can also support the Irvine 11 through donating to the Muslim Legal Fund of America.
Look for some more updates in the near future on MuslimMatters, inshā'Allāh.