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Yalies’ Lawyer: Flag Burning Not Political

From the Yale Daily News:

Lawyer: Fire was a ‘prank’

Attorney for three students says burning of flag was not politically motivated

Charlotte Martin

April 3, 2007

Three Yale students arrested for burning an American flag attached to a house were not politically motivated, their lawyer said Thursday.

The attorney, William Dow, said that Hyder Akbar ’07 takes full responsibility for lighting the flag on fire early Tuesday morning. Nikolaos Angelopoulos ’10 and Farhad Anklesaria ’10, who were with Akbar at the time, were not involved in the “prank,” Dow said. All three were charged with multiple counts of second-degree arson, first-degree reckless endangerment, third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace at an arraignment on Tuesday.

Contrary to statements Wednesday by the correctional facility where they were being held, the three students had all been released from prison on bail by mid-morning Wednesday, Dow said.

Akbar admits to burning the flag, which was being flown from a Chapel Street home, though not for political reasons, Dow said.

“There was absolutely no political motivation whatsoever,” he said. “It was a stupid college prank.”

Dow declined to comment on whether the students had been under the influence of alcohol or any other substances. The police report gives no indication of whether they were or not.

Dow said Angelopoulos and Anklesaria maintain their innocence and that Akbar told the police at the time of his arrest that he was the one responsible.

“The other two were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Dow said.

New Haven Police Department spokeswoman Bonnie Posick previously told the News that according to the arrest report, all three had admitted responsibility to police officers on the night of the fire.

The result of the case could be particularly significant for Angelopoulos and Anklesaria because they are international students of Greek and British citizenship, respectively. Ann Kuhlman, the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said both the arrests and the outcome of the case could affect their immigration status.

Akbar is a U.S. citizen, though he was born in Pakistan. He worked as an informal translator for U.S. forces during the invasion of Afghanistan and later published a memoir, “Come Back to Afghanistan,” based on his experiences there. His father is the former governor of an Afghan province…

Despite Dow’s statement that the actions were not politically motivated, students nonetheless disagree over whether the incident has political implications.

Sam Massie ’09 said he does not think the arson should be seen as a political.

“In setting fire to the flag, they were endangering house, so I don’t see this as a political thing,” he said. “The fact that the students have foreign-sounding names and that they are three Yale students makes for a sensational story, but it doesn’t bring up any interesting issues.”

But though burning an American flag is not illegal, and the students are being charged because the flag in question was attached to a house, some students said they could not see the act as anything but a political statement.

“I have a hard time believing that burning a flag is not inherently a political act,” Matt Magliocco ’08 said. “I think it’s incumbent on anyone, whether an American student abroad or a foreign student here, to at least show respect for the country he’s living in. Burning a flag is the complete opposite of that.”

The arrested students are set to appear in court on April 10 for a plea hearing.

And of course we believe them.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, April 6th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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