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Archive for September 24, 2011

Newsline: US Muslim students guilty of disrupting Israeli ambassador’s speech

Ten US college students from Southern California have been convicted of unlawfully disrupting a speech byIsrael’s ambassador to theUSlast year and placed on probation. Friday’s verdict followed two full days of deliberations by a six-man, six-woman jury in a case that has touched off a furore over free-speech rights at the University of California at Irvine. The students, who were ordered to perform 56 hours of community service, are to remain on probation for three years. But they could have that reduced to a year once they complete the community service. Charges against an 11th defendant have been tentatively dismissed. The case stems from a protest organised by the Muslim Student Union at the university against aFebruary 8, 2010, speech there by Michael Oren, the Israeli diplomat. Prosecutors say the students interrupted his appearance by shouting statements such as “Michael Oren, propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” and “It’s a shame this university has sponsored a mass murderer like yourself”. The US constitution guarantees Americans the right to freedom of speech. But the  OrangeCounty district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, has said the students – rather than exercising their own free-speech rights – were interfering with the right of Oren to be heard. The total amount of time taken up by the students’ disruptions was approximately only one minute, an attorney for the group said. The charges drew an outcry from civil liberties advocates and Southern California’s Muslim community, who say the students were unfairly singled out for prosecution even though similar protests are common at universities and do not result in prosecution.




Consular affairs: US consulate in Quetta still ‘under consideration’

The government of Balochistan is believed to be reconsidering a request by the US embassy for setting up an American consulate in Quetta, an official in the Balochistan Home Department told The Express Tribune. “The request has not been rejected,” said an officer in the department, adding that “the matter is still under consideration.” Earlier, the Balochistan government had flatly refused to allot land for the purpose due to security concerns. The ministry of foreign affairs was also opposed to the opening of the consulate due to negative reports by federal and provincial security agencies. Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) secretary general Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, who is also the opposition leader in Senate, earlier said that the decision to open theUSconsulate inQuettahad been taken by the government and land for construction of the consulate had also been purchased. Furthermore, the opposition leader criticised the government’s secret authorisation for the American consulate and termed the diplomatic mission ‘unnecessary’. Haideri added that American presence would amount to more terrorism in the region, requesting the government to withdraw their authorisation for the mission. The senator also opposed the building of a US consulate in Multan. While religio-political parties in Balochistan oppose the opening of theUSconsulate, Baloch nationalists are welcoming theUSmove. TheUnited Stateshad formally requested Pakistan last year for opening a consulate in Balochistan to supervise the development projects that it funds. Issuance of US visas from Quetta to the business community, students and the people of Balochistan was also among their priorities. At present, US visas to people in Balochistan are being processed by the US consulate in Karachi.