Ten Muslim students from UC Irvine who heckled Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren during an on-campus appearance last year were found guilty Friday of two misdemeanors to conspire and to disrupt the speech, despite their arguments citing free speech.

A prosecutor argued in closing arguments that the students had effectively censored Oren, who tried to give a speech in February 2010 about U.S.-Israeli relations but had difficulty doing so as the students lined up and, one by one, shouted preplanned phrases at him.

The students’ defense attorney argued that a free exchange of ideas is welcomed in a university setting and that politeness works “when you visit your grandmother.” And let’s face it, conservative Orange County, Calif., has long had a reputation for being less than polite when the conversation turns to Palestine or Islam.

Beyond the UC Irvine case, what’s important is the effect such a verdict could have on the American people’s right to free speech. –BF

Los Angeles Times:

Reaction inside the Santa Ana courtroom for the so-called Irvine 11 verdict was one of shock and anger.

Some people began weeping, while 10 to 15 people stormed out in anger after all 10 students were found guilty of conspiring to disrupt and then disrupting a speech at UC Irvine last year by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren.

Judge Peter J. Wilson had cautioned the 150 people who packed the courtroom, “Please remain in control of your emotions at all times.”

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