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American Muslim

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                          February 11, 2004

AMV congratulates Drake University President
for resisting probe into anti-war conference

February 11, 2004  - The American Muslim Voice has congratulated the President of Drake University, Iowa, for upholding the freedom of speech and dissent right while resisting a government probe into an anti-war conference held at Drake in November.

Federal prosecutors on Feb. 10 withdrew subpoenas, delivered last week, of Drake University and four Des Moines-area peace activists in a grand jury investigation of an anti-war conference and demonstration

The AMV said that Drake President David Maxwell’s remarks, while resisting the orders, are commendable. "Whatever one's views of the political positions articulated at that meeting," Drake President said in court papers unsealed, "the university cherishes and protects the right to express those views without fear of reprisal or recrimination."

"The university in America is, by definition, a free speech zone in which dissent, disagreement and multiplicity of views are not only tolerated, but encouraged," Maxwell said. "Rather than stifling the voices of those who disagree, we passionately believe that it is only possible to arrive at the truth through the rigorous examination of all options and all views."

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin also released a letter he sent to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft expressing concern about the investigation:

Prosecutors should be particularly vigilant about using extraordinary steps in cases when such a treasured American value as free speech is at stake. I hope that the steps taken in this case are an effort to protect citizens and security, not to silence legitimate voices calling for peace.

When law-enforcement measures are disproportionate to the activities they target, or when they appear to target activities that are legitimate expressions of dissent, then those law-enforcement measures have a chilling effect. They stifle liberty instead of protecting it.

Mr. Attorney General, our country has experienced dark episodes in which the government has wrongly curtailed citizens’ civil liberties in the name of fighting enemies. I call on you to give the Iowa case your personal attention to help ensure that we do not see another such episode in Iowa or anywhere in America.

The peace activists' conference and nonviolence training session - held at Drake after police and the media were notified - was called "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" The next day, activists went to the Iowa National Guard headquarters at Camp Dodge, where 12 people were arrested for trespassing.