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Muslims Sunday night prayed for 10 students on trial Monday in Orange County on charges of disturbing a public gathering where an Israeli diplomat was speaking.

“Mosques across Southern California will be filled with worshipers echoing similar prayers this Sunday night, showing support for 10 students who could be facing up to one year in prison for interrupting Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech last year,” the activist group’s announcement said Saturday.

“Students facing trial were arrested, cited and released after shouting and protesting during a February 2010 speech by Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren on the UC Irvine campus,” reported Brian Martinez for the Orange County Register. “According to prosecutors, the disruptions resulted in Oren being able to deliver only three minutes of his scheduled 30-minute speech.”

The incident was captured on video and inflamed tension between Muslim and Jewish students, reported Martinez:

Orange County District Attorney’s Office charged each student with one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to disturb a meeting and one misdemeanor count of the disturbance of a meeting. If convicted, each faces a sentence that could include probation with community service or fines or up to six months in jail.

“These students are being treated like criminals because they’re Muslim,” said Kifah Shah, spokesperson for Stand with the Eleven Campaign.

Prosecutors say the students violated the law and they deny claims that the case stems from religious or ethnic bias.

With jury selection kicking off Monday, both sides will likely give their opening statements the following week.

The university students – eight from UCI, three from UC Riverside – pleaded not guilty to the charges. The group was dubbed “Irvine 11” before charges against one of them were later dropped in exchange for 40 hours of community service.

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