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Disruptions at Israeli ambassador's talk prompt suspension ruling for UC Irvine Muslim group

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A University of California, Irvine, disciplinary committee ruled that a Muslim student group should be suspended for at least a year because of a protest that disrupted a talk by Israel's ambassador and led to the arrest of 11 students, according to documents released Monday.

The letter from a student affairs disciplinary committee to Muslim Student Union leaders said the group was guilty of disorderly conduct, obstructing university activities, furnishing false information and other violations of campus policy.

University spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said the committee's decision will be a binding recommendation to the campus' office of student affairs if a planned appeal by the group does not succeed.

MSU attorney Reem Salahi said the committee relied on evidence relied that was "inadequate and problematic" but declined to outline the group's challenge in detail. She said the decision, if sustained, would leave Muslim students without an organization representing their interests.

"It really does have very lasting constitutional implications," she said. "It's a chilling effect for Muslims on campus and their right to associate."

Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren was repeatedly interrupted and called "murderer" and "war criminal" by pro-Palestinian students as he was giving a talk on the Middle East peace process in February.

Eleven students were cited on charges of disrupting a public event after they were requested to refrain from heckling but did not.

Orange County district attorney spokeswoman Susan Schroeder said criminal charges have yet to be filed and it was unknown if or when they would be.

The MSU condemned the ambassador's appearance but insisted it did not organize the protests.

The disciplinary committee, however, said a review of online message group conversations and minutes from an MSU meeting revealed that the group did engineer the protests and instructed participants to lie about its involvement.

The group's preparations allegedly included scripting statements for protesters to make during the event and instructing participants to cheer at disruptions.

"Be VERY LOUD, firm and strong ... but remain composed and under control. Do not let your emotions get the best of you. Remember that this is a planned/calculated response and not a venting session," the committee quoted organizers as telling participants in meeting minutes.

The committee also ruled that the group should be put on disciplinary probation for a year following its suspension, which ends in August 2011, and that members collectively complete 50 hours of community service.

The letter, dated May 27, was released following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Jewish Federation Orange County.

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