Friday, January 28, 2011

Grand Jury Repression of Muslim Students in California

Speak No Evil Again Israel, Or Else (Image by S)
The Orange County (California) district attorney’s office has convened a grand jury that will consider filing conspiracy charges against the Irvine 11, a group of Muslim students who disrupted a 2010 speech by the Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. The students shouted over the Ambassador as he tried to deliver a speech on U.S.-Israeli security. They were disruptive enough to force Oren to take a 20-minute break. They were later arrested.

There is speculation that the move is politically motivated and intended to win conservative Jewish votes in conservative Orange County. Callers to the morning radio show, Air Talk, expressed shock that a grand jury was being convened for what is essentially a free-speech issue.

Grand juries are often used as a way to suppress popular movements and free speech. The grand jury has no power to convict the students; only to determine whether they should be charged with felony conspiracy. However, the grand jurors are not screened for bias. They can subpoena virtually any document, physical evidence or witness they desire, giving them phenomenal power to “fish” for anything that could be used against the suspects, or any of their friends, family or colleagues. The grand jury operates in secrecy. Defense lawyers are not allowed to be present and may not present evidence. Witnesses cannot obtain transcripts of their testimony and cannot take the 5th. Either you appear and do what they say, or you are in contempt and face as much as two years in prison.

Fight Back Against Grand Juries
There is a movement to resist grand juries as they are often used to attack social movements. You can read about strategies for resisting grand juries at the No Compromise website: “How to Crush a Grand Jury the No Compromise Way.” You can also find out more about grand juries and grand jury resistance at the Grand Jury Resistance Project.

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